Local Chamber holds first in a series of informative discussions for farmers and business people

Chamber Vice President Eric Verstappen, second from left, speaking at the “Business Succession Planning Forum” at the Club Alouette, November 28.

Tom Henihan
Express Staff

Smoky River Chamber of Commerce invited small business owners, farmers and those in agricultural based businesses to a “Business Succession Information Planning Forum” at Club Alouette in Falher on November 29.

The weather proved a bit of a deterrent on the night of the meeting so the turnout was small. However, all those who attended agreed that it was an excellent and informative meeting.

Representatives from AFSC, Chamber members Sandy Primeau, Eric Verstappen and Val Viens along with a number of local business people attended the meeting.

Local business person, farmer and Chamber Vice President Eric Verstappen gave a talk on the complex but extremely important subject of business and farm succession.

“It would have been great for the farmers themselves because what they actually talked about was getting your kids in early if they are planning on getting into the farm based businesses,” says Chamber of Commerce Secretary Treasurer Val Viens. “Eric talked about succession planning but he wants to bring in a professional for the next meeting.”

The Chamber wants to do two meetings a year, one in the fall when farmers are done with harvest and another in Spring before they go out on the fields. The next meeting is tentatively planned for late February or early March 2019.

“We are trying to bring farmers in as members of the Chamber because they are businesses as well. That is where Chamber president Sandy Primeau wants to take things because we have local businesses but we want farmers to join also,” says Viens.

Eric Verstappen said that the meeting was not as well attended as he had hoped but he also concurred that it was a good meeting.

“The way I see it is we want the Chamber of Commerce to become more of a spokes partner for our businesses so we have to up our level of discussion,” says Verstappen. “We have big problems to look after. We pay a lot of taxes, we have staff to look after and succession planning is another big issue that we have a hard time handling and that is why we are taking this track of high-end, well informed discussions.”

Verstappen says that succession planning is something they are tackling now because there are too many business that are shutting down. He points out that when people get to the age of retirement they quit and the businesses disappear.

“It is good if people are informed about how they can hand over their business to relatives or even to a third party and still be clever with all the money that is going around with that process,” he says. “So there is the whole thing of financial planning that happens around that and we have people in this area who can help and that is what we want to offer.”

Verstappen also makes the point that even if somebody wants to retire but does not have an immediate successor to take over the business, the chamber still sees it as extremely important to keep that business in the area.

Along with the advantage to the retiring business person, making every effort to find people to take over those businesses is also advantageous to the community and the new proprietor as the business is already established, they inherit the clientele and customers know where to go.

“What we want to do is, we’d like to start up a sequence of high quality discussion meetings, that is the goal, and I’m talking about only twice a year for example,” says Verstappen.

“It is not designed to be a study group, it is designed to invite people with a lot of knowledge about the subjects that we want to talk about. We are talking about succession planning at first but it can also be customer service issues, staffing problems, whatever people want to talk about but it has to be about something substantial.”

The Smoky River Chamber of Commerce encourages farmers and business people in the area to get in touch with the Chamber if they have any questions or want to discuss their business plans or concerns.

Secretary Treasurer Val Viens can be reached at (780) 837-8311 and Vice President Eric Verstappen at 780-837-2534.

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