By Nikki Jamieson
Ten down, 20 more votes to go.
At the annual general meeting of the Vauxhall Business Society on Nov. 16, board members asked who in attendance would want to be a part of a chamber of commerce, should they go that route. Of the 19 people in attendance, at least five were ineligible to vote, but 10 had indicated their desire to start a Vauxhall and District Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m glad for the ones that showed, just like for the ones that are not here, because we need to go into a chamber for federal registration and incorporation, need at least 30 members,” said Joerg Klempnauer, VBS president. “That is something we have to work for, we have to have, otherwise, we don’t even need to offer this thing.”
In order to become a full-fledged chamber, they need to have at least 30 members on board. Although technically, the society can start the three-month process to become a chamber today, as they currently serve 50 members, VBS does not wish to do that, as they fear a membership drop-out due to the higher fees involved.
Currently, the membership fees for the society are $50 per member a year or $35 for non-profit members. As a chamber, those fees would more than double, and members would pay about $120 a year.
“We could very easily take those people as our 30, and get our corporation set up, and we would be a chamber,” said Jen Schafer, VBS board member. “Our concern on making that decision as a board and just doing it, is doing it without member support, was that was there any benefits to us setting up a chamber, and the following year, when we would have to increase our rates as a chamber?
“But I don’t know that if I personally see a benefit of us setting up a chamber, to lose more then half of our members the following year, because then I would question if we were serving a purpose.”
Additionally, the society would have to carry over all assets and money in the VBS to the new chamber, before disbanding.
“As a society, it is very difficult for us to really represent businesses further out than Vauxhall,” said Klempnauer. “We only can do very little on a local term, and we get nothing provincially or federally. If we were to change to a federal, incorporated chamber of commerce, it would be under the Trades Act, and we are a (part of) the chambers of commerce of Canada.
“Having representation, having lobbying power and being able to offer courses and any further education and business meetings, like the Chamber of Commerce in Lethbridge has, for us, as a society, is impossible.”
In addition to having support from the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce, other chambers have indicated support for this venture as well.
The president of the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, Harry Gross, was at the AGM, where he voiced his support for the VBS to become their own chamber, citing a greater ability to get government to listen to business.
“The chamber has a big influence in the business worlds, specifically now more then ever with the government,” said Gross.
“Our influence as regional chambers is absolutely massive. So we’re not writing about food processors, construction industry or automotive association; we actually come with a single voice. When a chamber actually says something to the other, it carries a lot more voice then the automotive industry does.”
Although the outcome isn’t what they hoped for, the board members of the VBS still plan on actively pursuing the goal of becoming a federally recognized chamber of commerce.
“I think it’s encouraging,” said Klempnauer.
“But I think we’ve got to dig our heels in and see what we can do. We’re not calling it a defeat yet.”