EDITORIAL: Chamber needs to adapt, evolve

The South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce appears to have turned the corner on a difficult period of transition.

The South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce appears to have turned the corner on a difficult period of transition.

Although more current figures on its financial position are not expected until January, treasurer Doug Robinson intimated after the chamber’s AGM Tuesday that the picture for this year is not as bleak as expected.

Interim executive director Doug Hart went as far as to say that the chamber is looking ahead to a return to a surplus and even making a contribution to its equity base.

This is good news for the new 2012 board, which may actually be able to look forward to spending more of its time in making plans than controlling damage.

There is no denying that a situation of making cuts – including staff time, the paid position of executive director and expected sponsorship of several all-candidates meetings in the current municipal election campaign – is a bad optic for an organization that has been working hard to reposition itself as a go-ahead representative of the Semiahmoo Peninsula business community.

That very repositioning is one of the aspects of the over-reaching that contributed to the parlous financial position the chamber faced in October.

And yet it cannot be lost on the chamber that the neighbouring Surrey Board of Trade has made it no secret that it is attempting to expand its influence by issuing bold political statements and that they are taking an increasingly expansionist stance on the areas it covers.

The chamber was not wrong to want to boost membership and improve the level of advocacy and services it provides, particularly if it staves off the possibility of counter-productive turf wars.

Now going into its 75th year, the organization has a proud record of service to the business community – and a few features, such as its fee-for-service contracts with the City of White Rock, Tourism British Columbia and the Government of Canada for tourism activities, that make it unique among similar groups.

It should not be forgotten that the chamber’s woes were at least in part due to a situation that is not unique – many not-for-profit groups and societies are facing shortfalls in revenue in the current economic climate, curtailing or imperilling many of the events and activities they have come to count on for raising funds.

What worked before is not always working now – and a wise organization is one that realizes it must evolve as times change.