With its 127 members, the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce is approximately twice the size it was just two years ago.
Chamber president Jim Humphrey said members have been working hard in that time in an increasingly successful campaign to talk to non members in the area and explain the benefits of being part of the business organization.
He said that with TimberWest being one of the few big businesses in the Cowichan Lake region, small businesses are crucial to the success of the area.
“The more businesses we have, the less travelling people have to do to buy groceries, clothes, haircuts and anything else that they need,” he said.
But he said some business owners in the community don’t understand the value of being part of a strong chamber of commerce.
Humphrey said there’s a lot of misinformation out there about the purpose of the organization.
“Many think our whole role is to market them and bring customers to their doors,” he said.
“While we do our best to help direct people to the businesses in the area from our centre (at 125 South Shore Rd.), it’s not our job to keep individual businesses full of customers. Our job is to market the area and bring more people here so they will use local businesses for whatever they need.”
Humphrey said membership fees at the chamber are among the lowest on the Island.
As well, he said members are invited to have a web page on the chamber’s website, free of charge.
“We get a huge number of hits on our website every year, and visitors to the site check out many of the businesses listed there,” Humphrey said.
“We also have our tourist information kiosk in Mesachie Lake that includes a list of chamber members, along with their phone numbers, as well as various bits of information about the area.”
Humphrey said it has been a successful year for the chamber in other ways as well.
He said the chamber has been working with Cowichan Valley’s Wideglide Entertainment, which owns Laketown Ranch, to promote the growing number of annual events that occur there.
“People come from all over to attend the festivals and we’ve worked hard to get the community behind it,” Humphrey said.
“Overall, the ranch is a huge economic success for the Cowichan Lake area.”
Humphrey said the chamber is also excited about the possibilities the new mobile visitor centre it will soon acquire will bring.
The centre is a self-contained kiosk that can be deployed to the many events and activities around the region, providing information about the amenities and hospitality options in the area.
The Island Coastal Economic Trust is supporting this project with $30,000 of the approximately $75,000 cost, with the chamber expected to kick in the rest.
“We’re hoping to have the unit ready to go by the end of May, 2018, but we have to do some fundraising first,” he said.