At a recent conference I attended in the U.S., I was reminded once again how business savvy our neighbours to the south are.
One of the first concepts that came home was, this is the new normal. Whatever happened before 2009 is gone. We are in a contracted period of economic instability. It is not going to change anytime soon so we need to deal with the new reality.
We do not even have to look beyond our borders to see this. We face the reality of reverting back to the old PST and GST dual reporting and remitting (the chamber and KPMG are hosting a valuable breakfast seminar for small business on June 21. Check our events calendar at www.vernonchamber.ca for details).
The new reality of today also means looking to the future, instead of letting the issues of the past dictate our direction. The Denver area, much like the Vernon area, has a wide range of overlapping and competing jurisdictions. Yet, they have been successful in setting aside issues that divide them to attract investments and reposition the area in the new world marketplace.
What’s exciting is, while they are keeping a close eye on today, they are positioned to be the centre for renewable energy technology manufacturing in the U.S. How did they do it?
Golden, Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver chambers of commerce co-operated with each other to lobby governments to provide incentives that would help grow new business investment in the area. They all compete for investment individually, but recognize that the bigger game is getting companies to look at the region as a whole. They co-operate, in order to compete. It was cited as a strategic advantage that they were able to combine resources, stay on message and create compelling reasons for businesses to invest in the area. This is a lesson we can learn from.
The Greater Vernon chamber is on track. Over the next year, we’ll be working as closely as possible with our other neighbouring chambers to find ways of making the North Okanagan region more attractive for business.
We’ll also be working on some strategies to get our member businesses working together so that they too can co-operate to compete in the new now.
The reality is that businesses in small towns have greater access to external markets than ever before in history.
George Duffy is the general manager of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.