Businesses struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now it seems that chambers of commerce in small towns are facing a similar situation.
Many businesses closed for a while and some went out of business.
Now it’s starting to hit local business organizations.
Smoky River Regional Chamber of Commerce based in Falher is apparently closing shop because of a lack of committed businesses at meetings.
And it could also happen to the McLennan and District Chamber of Commerce.
A survey from both chambers was conducted with very low response and support.
It appears that times are changing for the role and value of chambers of commerce and they aren’t as vital to local businesses as it use to be.
Both chambers in small communities have struggled for many years to recruit new members and new vision.
Leadership in the Smoky River and McLennan chambers were all gung ho about a proposal to amalgamate the two chambers into a regional organization in a plan announced in early January 2021.
They said it would benefit the whole region that also includes Donnelly and Girouxville and the M.D. of Smoky River.
However, the proposal got very little buy-in from members and local businesses in both communities in a survey.
Town of McLennan council even questioned the concept earlier in the year.
McLennan wants to keep its own chamber.
Now it appears that the Smoky River regional will not have any chamber of commerce.
Chambers of commerce and boards of trade were created to promote and boost local businesses and serve as a voice from local business to municipal, provincial and federal governments.
Regional partnerships and amalgamation are becoming more vital in small rural areas as population and the number of businesses decline.
Now more than ever, as businesses and communities strive to rebound after COVID-19, it’s important that local groups co-operate.
United we stand, divided we fall.
If small communities want to save their local business, a chamber of commerce can play a vital role to protect their communities from being gulped up by big-box stores in neighouring communities.
Without a chamber of commerce, small businesses are left to fend for themselves.
However, municipal councils can also help.
Amalgamation is still a valuable option for the chambers of commerce based in Falher and McLennan.
As the population and number of businesses in the region fall, small chambers also have fewer members to sustain a small organization.
Maybe the chamber of commerce can be an issue in the upcoming municipal election campaign.
What’s the vision to promote business in the region?
Work together to build local business.