Commentary – Stronger together

Richard Froese

Solid and sustainable communities are based on strong and committed organizations and volunteers and leaders.
Small and rural areas need those strong pillars to build those communities, especially as the rural population declines.
A chamber of commerce serves a valuable role for businesses and the economy and the community. It is a big promoter and booster of business and community spirit.
Regions of small rural communities can and will survive and thrive only when communities and organizations work in co-operation, not competition.
For many decades, McLennan and Falher each had its own chamber of commerce and struggled to survive on their own. After much discussion the past two years, the Smoky River Chamber of Commerce was created April 6 after the Falher-based Smoky River Regional Chamber of Commerce and McLennan and District Chamber of Commerce amalgamated.
When groups with similar roles and goals in small rural regions join forces, it can only make the organization and efforts stronger and increase its impact on the community.
Especially when organizations are struggling to find committed members and volunteers, it only makes sense to combine similar organizations into one.
Support for one chamber and business voice for the Smoky River region grew to the point of the amalgamation vote at a special meeting. It is the second time in five years a chamber in the region was born under a new name.
After the Falher and Area Chamber of Commerce folded several years ago, the Smoky River Regional Chamber of Commerce was incorporated on Jan. 30, 2017. The name was changed with a vision to create a regional chamber of commerce.
Now, as an amalgamated organization, the Smoky River chamber truly serves the region.
The regional chamber has a mandate to serve, support and advocate for the business community and other business stakeholders in the region that includes the communities of Falher, McLennan, Girouxville, Donnelly and the M.D. of Smoky River.
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions for gathering in-person to discuss amalgamations, leaders in both former chambers persevered and continued to move forward to consult with members, businesses and the community.
The new unified chamber got a kick-start when the former Smoky River regional chamber elected a new president and board of directors at its annual general meeting last Oct. 28. Soon after the board discussed and set goals to promote businesses in the region, the chamber was showing its wider vision.
The chamber expanded its Christmas shopping promotion, Midnight Madness, last November to include and promote businesses not only in Falher, but in McLennan, Girouxville, Donnelly and the M.D. of Smoky River. Participating business throughout the region appreciated the event that attracted crowds of shoppers.
Now under one banner, the Smoky River Chamber of Commerce is committed to continue that momentum. The chamber also wants to play a key part in the Falher Honey Festival set for June 17-19 and many more chamber and community events.
An active and proactive chamber of commerce in any region is needed more than ever as businesses recover from the downturn in the economy from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A big challenge is to keep local residents from shopping out of town as the prices of everything keep on rising.
Support local businesses and help support your community.
Otherwise, residents will see more businesses close their doors.

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