Business

2014: A year of change for the chamber

Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce president Michael Nyikes - Pirjo Raits
Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce president Michael Nyikes
— image credit: Pirjo Raits

Just one year ago, the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce was in danger of going under. It was at a point of near bankruptcy and extreme measures were required to bring it back into the black, says the current president.

“2013 was a year when we had to do a lot of damage control,” said 2014 chamber president Michael Myikes.

He said there was a lot of non-confidence from the business community and local government. He said the chamber was, at that point, unable to carry out its duties and the organization was “handicapped” and there was the prospect of shutting the doors after 65 years.

The extraordinary crisis was the catalyst for major restructuring and change.

The chamber began to make the changes which were necessary for its survival. New leadership and directors were appointed with Randy Welters stepping in as president. The chamber negotiated a new three-year Fee for Service Agreement with the District of Sooke enabling them to carry on business. The chamber developed a four-year strategic plan and broke down some barriers and build some bridges with the business community.

Positive things began to happen for the chamber after their reorganization and restructuring. The chamber began reporting to council, they hired a qualified staff person as office administrator and became more visible and active in the business by regaining their confidence.

Nyikes feels the chamber has a role to play in economic development, conference and convention management and promotion of the Sooke region.

Other key portfolios are a resident relocation plan, Newcomers Club, Shop Local Plan as well as a business education series.

“2014 will represent a whole lot of success,” stated Nyikes. “2014 represents a year where plans are put into action, 2013 was about planning.”

Nyikes wants the plan they have in place to be sustainable and able to move forward on its own.

Developing revenue streams is one of the plans Nyikes has for the chamber. This would involve gaining access to money from District of Sooke business licenses for economic development, and introducing and accessing a 2 per cent hotel tax.

“This would go towards promoting community whether through the chamber or SRTA (Sooke Region Tourism Association). I’m hopeful we’re going to be able to work much, much more closely with other organizations.”

He said many organizations are operating in silos and they should share resources, expertise, etc. as they are all moving toward the same goals anyway.

“We’re not winging it anymore, we have accountability and transparency. What we need now is support and that will come through our actions.”

He said support can come from the business community seeing the value of the chamber.

“I’m optimistic 2014 will see us receiving support from the business community and everyone else,” said Nyikes. “It’s an action year.”

Nyikes and his wife Susan moved to Sooke for the lifestyle and the climate three-and-a-half years ago. Having grown up in Calgary the Nyikes preferred the warmer weather and the West Coast provided just that. He said Sooke hit all of their check points.

“There’s something about Sooke,” he said. “Personally I hope to feel like I’m being purposeful in a community I love.”

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