Annual General Meeting - February 2019
I am so pleased to be bringing this update to our committed Membership – and beyond – on behalf of the Board of Directors. The year 2018 was marked by many things that leave us looking forward to the coming year with purpose and excitement. I am proud of the hard work that our dedicated staff team, Board, all committee members and volunteers have contributed to help make this past year a success. A debt of gratitude is also owed to all of our partners and sponsors throughout the year – thank you for continuing to value the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce.
We celebrated many local champions of business excellence – and dedication to this community – through time honoured traditions of the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce. The 130th Business Excellence Awards boasted Special Guest, Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce It was certainly a night to remember for all in attendance, particularly those who were recognized for their inspiring achievements. Our ‘Feature Industry’ initiative continues to open the eyes of many to local innovation, and we are excited to continue to proudly showcase local industry leaders, with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Chatham-Kent Workforce Planning Board as supporting partners.
We recognized many highly motivated entrepreneurs of all ages through our ‘Feature Entrepreneur’ program, in partnership with the Chatham-Kent Workforce Planning Board; we will continue to build on that program, particularly to encourage and celebrate the ‘next’ generation to consider entrepreneurialism with roots in Chatham-Kent. Through our ‘Feature Act’ Program we recognize individuals that help build a better Chatham-Kent, in partnership with the Chatham-Kent Community Leader’s Cabinet. These recognitions are hosted publicly in front of CK Council where groups and the people behind the 'act' are thanked for helping make Chatham-Kent a great place to live, learn, work and play.
You may have also stopped by one of our Business After Hour events – and if so – thank you! Changes have recently been made to this event to better suit the needs of our Membership. We are excited for the year ahead to showcase local business, and better connect our Members; both to each other, and to the community at large. Special thanks goes out to our Business and Members Connection Committee for their tireless work and volunteer hours spent to make all of these initiatives a success!
Gratitude must be expressed for the efforts of the Agriculture Committee, particularly for organizing yet another time honoured tradition of the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce – the 72nd Rural Urban Dinner & Awards. The agriculture sector has always been a pillar of this community, and is certainly a key – if not the key economic driver for Chatham-Kent. Innovation abounds in our local ag sector, and many local industry leaders were recognized and celebrated during this event. Special Guest, Dylan Sher engaged and entertained guests with commentary about his recently launched documentary ‘Before the Plate.’ In fact, many local farmers and farms were featured in this film – what an honour!
There have been more than just ‘celebrations’ throughout the year; 2018 witnessed both a Provincial and a Municipal election. In order to best support our Membership and their needs from all levels of government, with the help of our Government Affairs Committee, we hosted Member Outreach Sessions for feedback to assist in our advocacy efforts. With our Membership and the needs of local business sector top of mind, we hosted a Provincial Election ‘Candidates Night.’ A new Provincial Government coming into power in July also brought many ‘winds of change’ that impacted our Membership and the local business sector as a whole. Advocacy efforts, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, paid off with the introduction of Bill 47 – Making Ontario Open for Business Act. There is still much work to be done, but we are pleased with progress to date, and find comfort in the knowledge that many of our Members will be better served by this new legislation, and continue to keep their doors open in Chatham-Kent as a result. We will continue our advocacy efforts in 2019, and continue to push Chatham-Kent business sector ‘issues’ to the forefront with key Provincial representatives – as we did when coordinating a Roundtable Meeting regarding the Line by Line Review with Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board.
Our Municipal Opportunities Tour was a success, and a great avenue for all Municipal candidates to truly experience what Chatham-Kent represents in the business and ag-industry sectors. Most importantly, candidates were able to hear first-hand the successes, innovative techniques, and struggles that local businesses face. Our Mayoral Candidates Forum was well attended, and focused in on key issues within our business sector, as per our Membership outreach efforts. With many new faces around the Council table, we are excited for the future; we will continue to strengthen all partnerships and collaborative efforts with the Municipality, and to champion the voice of business going forward.
This coming year is already full of potential for growth and innovation in the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce, and we are excited to ride on the momentum of all achievements in 2018. In particular, we are proud of the recent creation of a NEW initiative meant to foster better linkages to CK’s ‘young’ demographic of professionals and those in the workforce – ‘YconneCKt.’ What better way to look to the future both of the local business sector, and of the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce itself?
This year, we are committed to connecting with our Membership and the community at large, to truly delve into our ‘WHY’ – Why, after over 120 years, are we here? Why do we still matter? How can we better adapt to serve the current needs of our Membership and the local business sector as a whole? Launching from this important self-reflection, we are confident that we will be able to evolve in a meaningful way as a modern Chamber of Commerce – and one that the community of Chatham-Kent will find great value in as a champion of business for years to come. I am truly honoured to be a part of this journey in evolution with all of you, as the Chair of the Board in 2019. Thank you to all of our Members, and to the community for your support of the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce thus far – stay tuned for all that’s to come!