Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce eyes future growth

Symposium first step in creating an economic initiative for the town

With the growth of Sooke, there are many questions on which direction the town will take in the years to come: tourist hotspot, quiet village or scenic escape.

Those questions were tackled at an economic symposium hosted by the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce last month attended by business and political leaders.

The forum was the first step in creating an economic initiative for the town, with the second step to implement an action plan and spin some of the ideas into motion.

Chief among the ideas was to create a “West Coast experience,” something chamber of commerce president Sean Dyble said needs time and refinement before it can materialize.

“A West Coast experience needs to be built from our core and refined to something specific,” he said, adding that many of the ideas that came forth were general in nature.

Another idea that also resonated with many was lobbying to open a Canada Customs office in Sooke, a concept that, while unexplored, may be beneficial to locals here and across the border.

“People identified the need to be able to use Sooke as an entry point from the U.S., so that someone can pick up the phone when they come to Sooke by water or by helicopter, they can call a customs officer to meet them where they arrive,” Dyble said, adding that another idea that spawned from the discussion was building a helipad in Sooke so people can fly from either Seattle or anywhere in the pacific northwest.

Nothing on the agenda has materialized however, and Dyble said the chamber is in the process of reviewing the list of projects before deciding which ones to implement into its action plan.

In January, the chamber will host a public forum where people can provide feedback on what will be proposed in the action plan, with its sole focus being growth.

“Growth will happen in Sooke, and is happening, and it’s the community’s job and interest that we guide development to suit our needs,” Dyble said.

He also pointed towards the completion of the roundabout and the town core improvement project, adding that it would mark a great start to a new era.

“We want to use the [downtown improvement] project that’s underway now as the start of the momentum to get other projects done in Sooke that the community has identified as important,” Dyble said.

But, like everything else, nothing comes without its challenges. Dyble said the biggest so far for the chamber is available resources such as sufficient hands on deck, as well as having enough time.

Dyble pointed out that part of the chamber’s future agenda is looking towards other organizations within the community who have the resources as well to help take on the proposed projects.