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South-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce is taking care of business

Hard work and community commitment are helping save the struggling yet feisty South-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce.

President Dave Shortill and his new board met and helped open the Malahat Nation's new cultural resource centre Wednesday, a ceremony symbolizing the tenacious chamber's survival and future hopes.

Shortill explained to Malahat elders and their guests his chamber decided to "press on" rather than join the Duncan Cowichan chamber after facing a fiscal crisis in the past two years.

The chamber's balance sheet shows assets and liabilities had dwindled to $3,196 by Dec. 31, down from $17,150 a year earlier.

"Excessive expenses drove us into the ground but our membership is still strong," he said of 115 members now being represented on the chamber's revamped website.

"It was a rudderless ship for a couple of years."

Chamber changes include hiring executive director Theresa Bertrand as daily operations' boss.

"We found a jewel in Theresa," said Shortill.

She and other engineered the chamber's website upgrade while getting a grip on membership numbers and other crucial details under the chamber's new board comprising Malahat Nation Chief Michael Harry, Ross Tennant, Gay Wise, Jason Lowe, and Shortill.

"We didn't know how many members we had," said Shortill. "We weren't paying attention to our membership. Their concerns are about increasing revenues for their businesses."

Those optics have a new focus as the south-Cowichan chamber inked a deal with their chamber colleagues in Duncan-North Cowichan, Lake Cowichan, Chemainus, Ladysmith.

"We met last year and signed an agreement to work together and maintain the cultures in each of our little areas.

"Five chambers gives us lots of strength. Things are really positive now."

The chamber's ledgers could become more positive with proceeds from Darren Cole's June 17 law of attractions session called I Dream Awake at Brentwood College's Bunch theatre. (Call 250-812-7433.)

"We have a vision of community growing together," Shortill said, noting 18 volunteers are working at the chamber's busy visitor centre at Mill Bay Centre.

"Our visitor centre is thriving," he said. "Building trust and friendships are my vision for the next year."

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