By MorinvilleNews.com Staff
Morinville – The Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce held its General Annual Meeting Wednesday afternoon to elect its president, vice president and directors at large. Vice President Heather Folkins of Escape Travel was elected President of the business advocacy group by acclamation. President Sheldon Fingler stepped down as Chamber president but accepted the nomination and post of vice president. The Chamber will now have eight directors at large, an increase of one board member from 2010. Board members Janet Altmiks, Sheilagh Bryan, Stephen Dafoe, Lynn Dechamplain, Linda Getzlaff, Paula Hittinger, Deborah Symanczuk, Charlene Whitfield and Simon Boersma were elected to their posts by acclamation.
Newly minted President Heather Folkins said she wants to build on the strengths and work of past president Sheldon Fingler and his board. “I think in the past year we’ve done a lot of great things,” she said. “We’ve gotten involved in the Alberta Chambers of Commerce and the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce as well. We attend meetings regularly all the time.”
Folkins said the involvement with the other chambers has put Morinville and its chamber on the map. “Now we’re involved in making policy for the Greater Edmonton Chambers,” she said. “I’d like to continue that obviously.”
Beyond the networking with other Chambers, Folkins said she would like to see greater advocacy on behalf of local businesses with the Town of Morinville, Sturgeon County and other levels of government as well as expanded work on economic development within the community to bring more business and businesses into Morinville. “The more businesses that are here, the more people will shop locally because they don’t have to go outside to get [what they need].”
The new Chamber president said the organization will continue with the events and initiatives already underway: annual trade show, business awards, chamber guide and annual golf tournament.
Additionally, the Chamber will continue its work through the Regional Tourism Action Plan (RTAP), an initiative started last year.
Looking for more members
With approximately 146 members, Folkins said she would like to see the Chamber of Commerce increase its membership of businesses in the community. “I think that we need to find a way to get out to those businesses so that they know what the Chamber actually does,” Folkins said, noting a lot of business owners are familiar with the gas and hotel discounts offered with Chamber membership but less aware of the advocacy role. “If you ask a lot of businesses, [they will say] it’s a networking luncheon once a month. But there’s a lot more that the Chamber does that people don’t seem to know about. We need to find a way to get out to those local businesses, whether it be maybe have board members going to the businesses personally to have meetings with those businesses.”
Folkins said unless businesses are members they have no real opportunity to see the advocacy role the Chamber plays in the community, the networking opportunities between Chamber members or the initiatives to promote shopping locally. It is the latter that Folkins would like to see strengthened during her term of office.
“I think that is something we need to work on a little more as well,” she said. “Getting the public to know why it’s important. Not just because we say so.”
The Chamber president said she believes many people shop outside the community, not because they do not want to support local businesses but because of the convenience of shopping where they work and because of a lack of awareness of what is actually available in Morinville and area. Folkins suggested an advertising plan that would incorporate local businesses could be used to build that awareness while serving as an incentive to join the Chamber of Commerce.
The new president is looking forward to moving forward with current and new initiatives with her board. “I’m really looking forward to this new board,” she said. “I think that the people that have volunteered are very dedicated to the Chamber and the local business community, and I think there will be good things happening in the next year.”