CHAMBER CHATTER: Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce eyes more economic activity

Chamber of Commerce executive recently met to lay out a slate of ambitious programs

The Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce executive recently met to lay out a slate of ambitious programs for 2016.

Much of the program agenda stems from the highly successful day-long retreat held in September with 50 community leaders who were asked to lay out their vision and the challenges regarding the future of Sooke.

Like any community, residents had an extensive shopping list, much of which has already been reported in the Sooke News Mirror.

Improvements to Highway 14 for the purposes of increased safety was considered a top priority and the chamber feels the time is right to push for change given the recent announcement by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure allocating $85 million toward a new McKenzie Road interchange.

Chamber president Sean Dyble reminded the ministry that some 14,000 vehicles use the most westerly part of Highway 14 and a relatively small investment is needed to make this portion of the highway safer.

Dyble points out that in reviewing the ideas that emerged from the September symposium, much of the needs list is interwoven. An example is that improvements to the highway would in turn, encourage more families and job-creating businesses to move here. As more families move to Sooke they stimulate the building trades and that in turn creates even more employment.

Other priorities for 2016 include upgrades to electronic infrastructure such as better cellular and bandwidth connections which would end the frustration we all have as cellphone users and at the same time, encourage more telecommuters that work from home.

The chamber’s Better Buy Sooke program has been well received and some consumers have asked if that means that they should only buy local.

Dyble points out that the intent is to simply give local retailers and service providers the first chance at meeting your needs and if price and quality are a match with Victoria companies, then that deserves their support.

Next year will also see a concentration of effort in the chamber’s relocation strategy which will campaign to encourage more pre-retirees to relocate to Sooke.

Dyble points out that if most of the families that move to Sooke buy a family home in the $350,000 to $400,000 range this can bring enormous initial economic benefit often followed by major expenditures in renovations and services.

One of the chamber’s more entertaining responsibilities is to work with the community in the Sooke Santa Parade. In spite of the work underway in the downtown, the parade attracted more participants than last year and more of Santa’s fans crowded along the newly designed route. The challenges that all this brought to traffic management was solved by the professional services of Sooke’s Shadow West Security who hired extra staff as a commitment to making sure things ran smoothly.

All Sooke residents should be impressed and pleased at the vast improvements to Sooke Road with the completion of the roundabout and the new Royal Bank building.

The chamber now hopes to initiate discussions with building owners in that part of town that are willing to consider enhancements to their properties reflecting the town centre guidelines while adding to the “curb appeal” of the area.

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Submitted by the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce.