Here we go again
The Chamber of Commerce is in a state of disarray at the moment, and for Slave Lake, thatís nothing new. Its current problems are nothing that a group of smart committed volunteers and a full-time, well-paid office manger canít straighten out.
Easier said than done.
Attendance at last weekís meeting was anemic. Most of the executive didnít bother to show up, so they werenít there to hear the acting presidentís plea for someone besides himself to step up to the plate at next monthís elections.
It sounded pretty bleak.
But itís worth remembering that the Chamber has been through bleaker periods. Sixteen years ago it was defunct Ė no sign of a pulse at all. What it took to revive it was a core group of volunteers with a vision and a competent manager. It had both of those for several years and the results were good.
The Light-up Slave Lake, Passport to Christmas and Moonlight Madness promotions are Chamber projects. So was the Business of the Year award banquet Ė for years a highlight on the Slave Lake social calendar. The Anglersí Cup was a Chamber project, as were other centennial events last year. Several trade shows have been Chamber projects, as will the 2006 Business Expo, coming up in May. Organization for the latter is going well because the Chamber saw fit to hire a project coordinator.
Thatís a solid record of accomplishment, but it came with a price. More than once itís taken pretty much heroic efforts to pull off certain projects. Unfortunately, those efforts left the volunteers tired out. So they resigned.
When that situation coincides with an un-staffed office, things begin to fall apart.
The mandate of the Chamber is to promote commerce in the community. Itís been suggested lately that the Chamber shouldnít be taking on projects and maybe thatís right. But at least it should have a well-run office to handle basic Chamber business, which includes sharing information about the community to whoever seeks it. Those inquiries will always come to the Chamber, because people from outside the community generally think of the Chamber first.
So even if the Chamber gets out of the business of running projects, it can still be an effective voice. To do that, it needs at least three things: A good office manager, a good executive to provide direction to that manager and interested members who pay their dues, show up for lunch once a month and share their views with the executive.
There are too few bodies everywhere you look, but if any group can pull this off it should be the business community.
Price of progress
You hear stories of immigrant labour in the vegetable fields of California and the cotton fields of Arkansas. But northern Alberta?
That is really something different to chew on. Yet it is happening now, as at least two Slave Lake companies are bringing people directly from the Philippines to fill positions they canít seem to fill otherwise.
Some people will not like this development. Theyíll point to Albertaís four or five per cent unemployment rate and ask, Ďwhat about the people in our communities who are out of work?í
Any reasonable effort to get people out of that unemployment category should be made. But itís a tough nut to crack, requiring a process of education, training and other encouragements that might gradually make a difference.
When you want willing workers now, immigration might be the only answer.
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