Speech from President Jake Lacourse

Dec 12, 2014 | News

Chamber 2015

‎First off all I’d like to again thank Past President and now Councillor Derek Shogren, as well as all the previous Chamber Presidents and boards for bringing the Chamber to this its upcoming 121st year.

Thank you for allowing me to continue for the year 2015 as President.  The North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce will remain focused on being the premier voice of business in our area.  You can expect to see your executive lead this organization into a year of introspection and renewed focus.

Some of the internal priorities we will be focusing on will be:

1)    Re-alignment and re-focus of our committees to better serve the goals of the Chamber and its members

2)    An extensive audit of our by-laws in order to comply with the Not-for-Profit Act.  This has already started with the change of our AGM to early Spring.  The AGM will see a host of by-law revisions.

3)    Executive Responsibilities.  The VP’s have typically been responsible for a portfolio of committees.  This upcoming year, the VPs will be directors at large, who will be in a position to discuss the various committees and initiatives from a neutral position.  I believe that this will foster a more meaningful discussion into the goings-on of the Chamber and develop more rounded decisions into the continued direction of this organization.

I will also be recommending a change to the Executive structure at the upcoming AGM that would take effect for the following year, in where the Exec would consist of President, President Elect, two Vice Presidents, Treasurer, and Executive Director rather than the current structure of Past President, President, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Vice, Treasurer and ED.  The understanding would be that the 1st Vice would be continuing on as President during the following term.  This will allow the President Elect to start forming plans for their upcoming 1st year and ensure mentoring from the President.  This will not preclude the election process from happening each year however to ensure that the board is still satisfied with their representatives; yet would provide positive succession planning.

4)    Board Size.  We are the largest board in the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.  It will be my recommendation of reducing the board size by half in order for the board to have greater efficiency and increased accountability.  We can’t look for these qualities from other organizations without practicing them ourselves.

5)    Board Engagement.  The upcoming year will see Board members assigned as Chairs or Vice Chairs of the various committees based on their interests and skill sets.  Further to this it will be my mission to ensure that issues that come up in between board meetings are sent to the board via email, or whenever possible in person/telephone, for comment and feedback prior to making comments publicly.

6)    Nominations to the Board.  In years past, the process for nomination is to go through the membership list and nominate voting members that the Executive believes would be good additions to the Chamber’s board.  I am putting forward that we change our nomination process so that engagement in Chamber activities (or community/industry involvement) weigh heavily in qualifying a member to become eligible for nomination.

7)    Committee Structure and Audit.  The Chamber has done some amazing work for our members and member communities.  All of this rest solely on the backs of the many, many volunteers as well as the Staff who make up our various committees.  I am, however, keenly aware that times are ever changing and the Chamber needs to be nimble enough to change with them.  A serious look at our existing committees, what value they provide to our membership, and how they further the goals of the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce is overdue.

The committees that will be considered the pillars that the Chamber will designate as priority will be as follows:

A) Sectors.  This new committee will meet once a quarter and consists of leaders in various sectors that make up our Economic landscape; from Aerospace through to Transportation and every sector in between.  This committee will help identify cross-sectorial challenges and opportunities that will feed into the Economic Development and Government Affairs Committees.

B) Economic Development.  This committee achieved two major goals this year that really proved value to our Members in 2014.  1st was the successful lobbying for the reduction/deferral of Development Fees in the City of North Bay; a process that the Chamber started in May 2013. 2nd is the creation and continuation of the Investment Attraction Initiative where we are educating front line staff as well as boards and commissions on how to recognize Economically Important Events (such as a closing, expansion or development) and what to do with that information.  Already we’ve been able to identify a good list of events and have worked with the City of North Bay’s Economic Development Office to intercede/capitalize on these leads.  Executive Summary of the BMA Report insofar as it relates to the City of North Bay.

C) Government Affairs.  Policy and Advocacy have been this committee’s focus since its creation.  In this past year, it has led a Provincial Candidates’ Debate, Meet and Greets for the Candidates for Council in North Bay, Callander, Mattawa, East Ferris, Papineau-Cameron, and Mattawan and finally a Mayoral Debate.  This committee has also written an Executive Summary of the BMA in relation to the City of North Bay as well as started the process for gaining support for the Business Bill of Rights.  Armed with the challenges identified by the Sectors Committee, we will be continuing in this advocacy role in an ever more present manner.

D) Membership Value.  As a membership driven organization, we must constantly be striving to ensure that we are providing value to our existing members as well as attracting new ones.  We will be looking at this committee to take stock of what we offer to our members in terms of value and ensure that we are looking at Sister Chambers’/Boards of Trade for new ideas.

Business start-ups require all kinds of capital outlays. I’d like to explore a program where a registered new business, would receive their first year membership with the NBDCC free so that the new business can grow and tap into the membership benefits, effectively putting our money where our mouth is in looking to foster an affinity for the Chamber.  We can hold certain criteria such they must go through one of our partners like The Business Centre in order to gain this benefit, but this would go a long way to help small businesses thrive in all of our communities.

E) Young Professionals.  This committee has been treated as a subcommittee of Membership but have consistently proven to be an energetic and dynamic group.  Making them a standing committee for the Chamber will provide them with more independence to drive membership and value.  The YPs ARE leaders in our communities and will continue to be in the Future.

F) Programs and Special Events and its sub committees of Small Business Week and Extra Mile.  This committee will require the most creativity and support as it is one of the more labour intensive committees where members perceive value.  The Committee will be tasked with refining our existing programs and events to make them leaner and highly effective and at the same time implement events that are of incredible value to our members, such as lunch and learns or seminars by industry experts.  We will be looking at greater partnerships to execute these types of events.  A great example of this is the Cyber Security Workshop held yesterday December 10.  I’d also like to challenge this committee to work with partners who also have similar District boundaries in order to ensure that our presence in ALL of our member communities are able to take advantage of programing offered by the NBDCC.

G) Finance Committee.  This committee will fall under the direct responsibility of the Treasurer.  Its role will be all financial aspects of the Chamber.  It will be tasked with the oversight of Membership Sales as well as Non-Membership Revenues Subcommittees.  It will also further be responsible for ensuring appropriate financial processes and procedures are in place and followed.

-Membership Sales.  An absolute focus for our Chamber will be in driving membership Sales.  This subcommittee of the Finance committee will centre on the retention and expansion of our membership base through proven sales techniques and targeted campaigns geared to the audience.

-Non-Membership Revenue.  This subcommittee will be responsible for seeking out and recommending non-membership revenues such as overall Chamber sponsorship packages, Trips, Affinity Sponsorships, and other alternate revenue sources.

8)    Meetings frequency and location.  We have for this past year been fortunate enough to have been meeting in our very own boardroom at the Chamber Office.  I’d like to challenge members who can accommodate space for a 25 person board to reach out to us so that we can meet and showcase your business at the same time.  Just like Canadore College did by offering up their Hanger.  We also meet 10 times a year (excluding July and August) and I’d like to continue that trend, but with the a resolution from the board that the Executive has the power to dispense of all business during the two months the board does not meet.  This past year, we couldn’t pass resolutions based on the fact that we couldn’t make quorum on votes.  Business arising would be still sent to the board but in the event of a lack of quorum, the Executive could vote and put the business to rest.  A full report of the business transacted would be of course recapitulated at the September board meeting.

9)    In an effort to better display that we are the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce, we need to acquire the domain www.nbdcc.ca and make this our primary URL.  Our current URL of nbdcc.ca doesn’t communicate who we are effectively.

10)                       Collaborations.  His Worship Mayor Al McDonald focused in on Economic Opportunities in his speech December 1, 2014 and agree that the Chamber sees great opportunities in “Mining, Advanced Manufacturing, Aviation, Aerospace, Space, Healthcare and Education”.  I wholly endorses the creation of the Economic Development Corporation and applaud the Mayor and Council for their forward thinking in bringing a power house together to open doors on a Global Level. The Chamber will be working hand in hand with the City of North Bay in order to further, and nurture, growth in the City.

We will be working with the City to further develop the Business Bill of Rights as well as supporting further Economic Development Opportunities.  As an apolitical and non-sectarian organization, we work with all parties to further “promote and improve trade and commerce and the economic, civic and social welfare of the District.” (NBDCC Constitution Item 6.1.1)

In this vein, we have already had very successful meetings with our MP Jay Aspin, next week with our MPP Vic Fedeli, and look forward to supporting both of them in their efforts to improve the climate in which business can thrive.   Letters have also been sent to the Mayors and Councils of the Communities that we represent asking them for further feedback on where we can collaborate.  I’m pleased to be able to say that Mayor Hec Lavigne has already reached out and will be looking forward to assisting him and his Council in order to help them achieve some of their goals.

11) Tourism.  This past year, the Chamber was pleased to partner with HOST and the City of North Bay’s Parks, Recreation and Leisure Office to put boots on the ground in a move to capture Sport Tourism.  The ROI on this venture has been incredible and North Bay is positioning itself to be a go-to Host Community for many Sport Tourism events Large and Small.  So far, the Economic Impact of the projects in Sport Tourism have generated $2.5M for the local economy!

The Chamber has also, in partnership with the City of North Bay’s Economic Development Office, HOST, The Labour Market Group, Tourism Northern Ontario and Northeastern Ontario Tourism put forward a Tourism Capacity Building Initiative that has the ultimate goal of bringing together funds to support a dedicated Tourism Officer, Product Development, Marketing, and a Bid Pool.  These funds will be generated by a co-operative program funded in part by a tourism levee as well as membership fees from businesses who benefit directly from Tourism such as restaurants and attractions.  A true pay-to-play program where those who collect and remit to the fund will be included in the tourism efforts of the Chamber.

12)Community Development.  To attract businesses to setup shop in our communities we require a healthy, robust and thriving community.  A community’s economy is not an island existing on its own. A healthy community comprises an interdependency of all facets of the community, business, social, housing, culture, governance and more. We all need to respect, consider and communicate in order to work together for the betterment of North Bay’.  It’s vital for our future. In this vein, I would like to see the Chamber bring forward a Community Development Committee.  Looking forward, a Community Plan facilitated by Canadore College calling together the NBDCC, the Corporation of the City of North Bay and key community stakeholders in January 2015 to plan out the road map for the future of this City.

Thank you.