Like the community it serves, the Cowichan Lake Chamber of Commerce is reporting a positive year of growth and optimism.
Chamber membership has reached 111 — its highest number in recent memory — the books are balanced, and the organization is poised to play an increasingly important role in the business community.
“The board of directors was very busy during 2017,” president Jim Humphrey noted in his report, which was delivered by vice-president Brent Clancy at the Chamber annual general meeting held on March 1. Humphrey was unable to attend due to family issues.
“The year was filled with excitement with new projects, committees, new businesses, new relationships and new events that can only enhance the Cowichan Lake area’s economy,” Humphrey said.
When Humphrey suggested “the local economy was and still remains fragile” many in the group of 48 in attendance, at the request of Clancy, raised their hands in disagreement of that cautious statement.
Ian Morrison, Area F director and vice-chair of the CVRD, told the meeting 2017 had been a great year for the area.
“Something has changed around here over the last couple of years,” Morrison said.
“I think it has something to do with Laketown Ranch,” he opined, crediting the home of the annual Sunfest country music festival for a renewed sense of optimism and economic growth.
“There are no building lots left in the area. Building starts haven’t been this high in a decade. Things are starting to happen.
“This is one of the best places in the world to live,” Morrison said.
With Chamber manager and visitor centre coordinator Katherine Worsley at the helm, the Visitor/Business Centre was a busy place in 2017. More than 33,000 people came through the doors of the centre and 6,347 people came to the mobile unit in search of information about the area’s services and tourism opportunities.
Humphrey provided a long and impressive list of events and issues that the Cowichan Lake Chamber of Commerce were involved in over the last year.
“Our mandate is to represent and promote the business community of the Cowichan Lake area. We also work to make our communities better places to live, work and play,” he told the members.
The Chamber continued its long-time sponsorship of the Cowichan Lake Lady of the Lake Society, helped restart the Lake Economic Activity Development Committee, held its 17th annual Spring Fling Dinner/Auction, was involved in Family Heritage Days, and played an important role in numerous community events.
Mayor Ross Forrest had praise for the work of the Chamber, suggesting the whole community deserves credit for the progress that has come in recent years.
“It doesn’t come from politicians or individuals, it comes from us collectively as a community and our participation,” Forrest said.
“The Chamber of Commerce are out and leading the way at every event that happens in the Lake Cowichan region.”
A highlight of the evening was the presentation of four awards.
Lorne Scheffer, chair of the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative was named the 2017 Citizen of the Year.
South Shore Cabinetry, owned by Roy and June Sandsmark, was named Business of the Year. That award is sponsored by Island Savings.
The Nichole Stock Community Service Award of the Year went to Ryan Rai, a tireless volunteer who plays a key role in the community’s baseball, hockey and curling scenes.
“Ryan has made sports in the Cowichan Lake area successful,” his nominator said. “He has helped move things forward and made it possible for people to enjoy playing the game, no matter what the game may be.”
Brian Kitchen, an employee of Country Grocer, received the Customer Service/Employee of the Year award.