Smoky River chamber promotes regional voice

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Smoky River Regional Chamber of Commerce based in Falher is calling for a unified voice to better serve the region.

Chamber president Sandy Primeau and vice-president Eric Verstappen are working on a plan for the chamber to amalgamate with the McLennan and District Chamber of Commerce and partner with Smoky River Economic Development.

“I whole-heartedly believe that the Smoky River and McLennan chambers need to become one,” Primeau says.

“The business community, chambers and economic development need to all pull together to make the area grow and prosper.”

After the Falher and Area Chamber of Commerce folded, the new chamber was incorporated as the Smoky River Regional Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 30, 2017.

Primeau says the name was changed with a vision to become a regional voice.

Verstappen says he and Primeau met with the McLennan chamber executive in 2020 to discuss amalgamation.

“We need only one chamber for the region,” Verstappen says. “Why do we need a chamber for every town?”

Verstappen says he plans to present a strategic plan to the Smoky River chamber at a meeting in February, although no date has been set.

“My goal would be to involve more businesses and actively start organizing networking and educational sessions,” Verstappen says.

“We also want to get more involved with the economic development of the area.”

The chamber has also struggled to attract strong support from members and business people to meetings and special educational sessions, he says.

He says the chamber may have to go another direction if that support doesn’t grow.

“I would rather go back to a voluntary membership and work for only businesses that actively participate in our organization,” Verstappen says.

“Maybe we could start only a discussion group and have informal meetings.”

Businesses have many benefits for being a chamber member, especially with added funding and support during the pandemic.

“The chamber has a great resource for businesses in regards to government support and access for getting businesses up and going again after or even during the pandemic,” Verstappen says.

Amalgamating chambers in McLennan and Falher have been discussed and presented at various times over the past 15 years.

For more information on the Smoky River chamber of commerce, contact Primeau by phone at (780) 837-2785, or contact Verstappen by phone at (780) 536-6740 or e-mail to Verstappen at Hendrikus_Verstappen@cooperators.

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