The Whistler Chamber of Commerce (WCC) announced its new board of directors for 2013 at its annual general meeting luncheon held at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler last Wednesday (Dec. 12). Seven new directors were voted in from a list of 13 candidates by Chamber members online.
The new board is comprised of Sue Adams (The Grocery Store), Grant Cousar (Whistler Cooks), Ben Thomas (VIP Mountain Holdays), Brent Harley (Brent Harley & Assocaites), Flora Ferraro (Whistler Blackcomb), David Kirk (Whistler Village Sports) and David Williamson (Cascade Environmental). All new directors are to be sworn in at the first board meeting in January.
Chamber president Fiona Famulak presented the review of the financial statements as of Dec. 31, 2011 highlighting the $153,793 deficit, which was reported to council in March this year.
“We were able to absorb the entire deficit through our accumulated reserves,” said Famulak. “At the end of 2011, our board made the strategic decision to budget for a $47,000 deficit in order to undertake specific projects on recruitment and retention.”
The loss of three long-term rental contracts, reduced sponsorship revenue and lower event participation during 2011 contributed to the loss of an additional $90,000. There was also a loss incurred for the inaugural Outlook Economic Symposium, hosted by the chamber in June 2011.
“In 2012 we undertook a rigorous review of our programs and services as well as our business and financial model and we have made some significant changes,” said Famulak.
Also on the agenda was the adoption of an updated set of bylaws. The previous bylaws date back to the mid ‘80s and were in need of modernization to meet the needs of the chamber. Vancouver lawyer Andrew Ouren was contracted to update the bylaws in spring 2012 and presented the changes at the luncheon, which included allowing more electronic communication, directors being able to serve three three-year terms maximum and “an empowering resolution with Industry Canada.” Chamber members voted in favour of the new bylaws.
After the adjournment of the AGM, Famulak gave a three-chapter presentation titled “Whistler's Economic Position 2002-2012 ... and what's next?” The importance of customer service was again highlighted as the most important factor affecting Whistler businesses, measured by the chamber's ServeUs Challenge and ServeUs 100 mystery shopper programs. The average scores were 8.3 and 7.3 out of 10 respectively for the 2011/12 season.
“We reference that with a 'C+' report card, that's not good enough,” said Famulak. “(Whistler Blackcomb) was recently named the No. 1 ski resort in North America. We have to work really hard to keep that No. 1 position. We need to move the dial, we need to move from a C+ to an A.”
She said despite an increase in the total number of business licences issued and WCC membership since 2002, Whistler business has actually seen a net negative growth. The Olympics helped cushion the economic impact into 2008 and 2009, but the costs of running a business in Whistler continues to rise.
“We hear again, again and again that the cost of doing business in Whistler is prohibitive,” said Famulak. Costs are broken down into commercial property taxes, commercial lease rates, labour costs and energy costs, with lease rates far exceeding other costs. “We can't interfere in the market, but there are ways to give our members tools to at least negotiate a smart lease, whether its putting them on training courses or helping them negotiate a lease. We do have a plan to also create a grid of lease rates that extend across the community so that when you are negotiating you at least have a reference point.”
A copy of the presentation from the AGM, as well as the new WCC bylaws can be found on the chamber website www.whistlerchamber.com.