Falher-based chamber on verge of folding

Businesses in the Falher area could soon be without a voice as the Smoky River Regional Chamber of Commerce has decided to fold without more support.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Smoky River Regional Chamber of Commerce based in Falher is going out of business.

Chamber vice-president Eric Verstappen told the news to Town of Falher council at its meeting Aug. 9.

“We have decided to wrap it up in Falher if we don’t get any support,” Verstappen says.

The move comes after the Smoky River chamber executive proposed to amalgamate with the McLennan and District Chamber of Commerce in a plan announced in early 2021.

McLennan chamber executive also supports that proposal.

He says the Smoky River chamber will approach the Alberta Chambers of Commerce to dissolve.

However, current members would still be able to keep the memberships in the ACC and the benefits.

He reported on a survey to members in the past few months.

“We didn’t get many responses,” he says.

Many indicated they doubt the chamber of commerce benefits local businesses.

Mayor Donna Buchinski says that closing the chamber could have a positive effect.

“The process could result in a good solution,” Buchinski says.

She said the Falher Honey Festival is a prime example,

“After the honey festival was cancelled one year for lack of interest and volunteers, there was an outcry to bring it back,” Buchinski says.

The next year, the honey festival had one of its largest crowds and biggest events, she notes.

She agrees that many chambers of commerce don’t have the same value from businesses as they did decades ago.

With social media and other marketing concepts, she says many businesses focus more on promoting themselves and not committed to serve in an organization that serves other businesses.

Verstappen questions why many of the major businesses do not participate in chamber events and attend monthly meetings.

“If these businesses can’t come out to a meeting for an hour or two, they don’t need us,” Verstappen.

He says a regional chamber is still best for Falher and McLennan businesses.

“Amalgamation will still be a good thing,” Verstappen says.

Perhaps when the chamber shuts down, it could spark discussion to resurrect the chamber, he says.

He also wonders about the future of the McLennan chamber, which received a few more responses in a survey with similar low interest.

Verstappen says he is talking with Smoky River Regional Economic Development to determine what role that organization could take to serve existing businesses.

It will be the second time in four years that the Falher-based chamber will fold.

After the Falher and Area Chamber of Commerce terminated, the Smoky River Regional Chamber of Commerce was incorporated on Jan. 30, 2017.

Chamber president says the name was changed with a vision to create a regional chamber of commerce.

Verstappen says he plans to update council at its next meeting Sept 13.

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