CHAMBER CHATTER: Unveiling Sooke’s economic future

Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce event hosts day-long conference with members, community leaders and the public

What does the future of Sooke look like through your eyes?

At Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce events, members of the executive and staff are often challenged by members and other locals who have a wide range of ideas that they would like to see as the community deals with the challenges brought about by changing technology and population growth.

In late September, the chamber of commerce hosted a day-long conference with community leaders, asking them to individually and collectively express their ideas and concerns around the future of Sooke and its environs.

Chamber president Sean Dyble told the board of the chamber of commerce how impressed he was with the day’s outcome.

“Delegates clearly exhibited a great deal of realism as to the problems we face and the great opportunities we have, given our locale in one of the most beautiful settings in Canada.  A

“At the same time it was repeatedly stated that we shouldn’t rely on the natural beauty but should continually work to enhance that setting with a ‘man-made’ presence in the form of a character-filled downtown and other amenities that enrich the quality of life for our citizens.”

Some of the exciting ideas that emerged included greater opportunities for localized adult learning (something that’s already underway as a chamber of commerce initiative), further beautification of the downtown, strategies to attract pre-retirees to invest in our real estate and ways to integrate the harbour into the community through commercial and recreational activities.

Delegates to the conference were asked also  to come up with ideas to increase the numbers of telecommuters – people who make their living from home, commuting to Victoria and other cities electronically.

Several ideas emerged around expanding the business base by making sure that existing businesses are given greater opportunities to prosper.

The chamber of commerce’s buy local campaign, Better Buy Sooke, was noted as a great start on improving the fortunes of local retailers and other suppliers.

There was general agreement that an improved economy involved greater marketing of the community to bring increased tourism, as well as attracting company relocations from other parts of British Columbia.

“We know, this will require improved infrastructure both physical such as major improvements to the Sooke highway as well digital in the form of improved cellular and bandwidth,” Dyble said.

There appeared to be a clear understanding that the way to help chamber of commerce members to prosper is through overall economic development of the community at all levels.

The chamber of commerce originated the conference, inviting both members and non-members as part of its community development strategy.

In the coming weeks, the chamber of commerce will issue a written report for community review and for local government. That report will contain a plan to identify organizations and agencies that can assist the chamber of commerce in meeting the goals that emerged from the conference.

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Submitted by the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce.