By Sue Tiffin
Published June 14 2018
Autumn Wilson called the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting held June 5 a “big success.”
The outgoing manager said more than 40 people attended the AGM held at Rhubarb restaurant to celebrate accomplishments from the past year and learn about upcoming goals. Rocco Rossi president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce attended the event to speak to the Ontario Economic Report as well as the strength of the network and how important that is for local business owners.
“He gave an inspirational talk about how important it is for businesses to come together and chambers to come together to present a unified voice and the strength of that network” said Wilson.
She said the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce has worked to offer strong advocacy for local businesses which is reflected in the Ontario Economic Report.
“It shows that our voice – it’s a collective voice and it is getting heard” said Wilson. “So a lot of the findings in that report reflect a lot of what our members have said to us so it means we’ve been loud enough which is good and we’re getting the voices forward.”
The Ontario Economic Report offers feedback about business confidence including that 62 per cent of Ontario businesses were confident in their economic outlook in the past with that number dropping to 54 per cent this year. In the Kawartha-Muskoka region business owners said the ability to navigate red tape or regulation and the cost of electricity affects their ability to be competitive. Of businesses in Ontario 77 per cent said access to talent was the largest impact to their competitiveness.
Wilson said businesses in Haliburton are largely feeling the same thing as most businesses in Ontario.
“It’s not like the businesses here are struggling and no one understands” said Wilson. “The businesses here are struggling and that’s exactly what the rest of Ontario is feeling too.”
Wilson said there are a few chamber representatives of rural areas who are often reminding others “don’t forget about rural Ontario” and so the representation in the report of local chamber members’ opinions was appreciated.
“It’s really great to see that this report is reflective of the business community here as well that shows that the voice of the Haliburton Highlands is being heard” she said. “It sounds very cliché. Essentially what we’re supposed to be doing is working. That partnership with the OCC is getting stronger.”
The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce update on the past year included details of new affinity programs offering member benefits as well as the chamber family and friends travel program offered through Transat Travel and Collette Tours which is open to anyone who wants to take advantage of it. Plans are in action for a discounted trip to April next year.
Wilson said communications both with members and the public has improved in the past year and the chamber’s presence has grown in the community with membership growing and strengthening. In the past year membership grew from 257 to 275 members which Wilson called really positive growth.
Representatives from the local chamber like Wilson have been branching out to represent the Highlands in provincial events including Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park. There Wilson was able to sit with the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development to talk about the skills gap here in the community an opportunity she called “beneficial.”
In strengthening relationships with community organizations Wilson said the chamber has been able to work to produce the Workforce Development Project video encouraging more people to move to the Highlands and promote the Buy Close By initiative.
Wilson’s last day at the chamber of Commerce was June 8 prior to her start at HCDC as program and operations co-ordinator. She said she has great confidence in the chamber team including Jennifer Locke who joined the team a few weeks ago to take on the managerial position.
“Jennifer and Angela [Jones] at the chamber they’re such a strong team” said Wilson. “I’m leaving it in good hands not worried about it at all.”
Locke said she is very much looking forward to continuing the strong partnerships that Wilson has developed including with the Young Professionals Network as they go through the process of rebranding their efforts to engage youth in the community.
An upcoming event A Mental Distress: Recognition and Response mental health workshop over breakfast will be held for chamber members on June 18 at the Bonnie View Inn from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
For more information about the Haliburton Highlands Chamber the Ontario Economic Report or the AGM visit www.haliburtonchamber.com or call Jennifer at 705-457-4700.