Chambers of Commerce across Ontario have always played an important role as the advocating voice of small businesses. The Township of Norwich version of the organization is a great example of what a chamber can do to help its membership succeed.
Laura Barker is a realty broker by day but is also the Communications Director for the Chamber. She said the organization’s executive consists of some talented and welcoming business people. “We’ve got a great team and we do really well with membership in our area. We have very much a shop local, buy local, support local community. If there is someone new in the area, we are very welcoming and bring them along to a meeting. People stay on as members with us for a long time.”
She added that the tight-knit business community in the area really strengthens business. “Just the opportunity to network with other businesses, get help when you have problems, we see our members helping each other out all the time. If you are new to the area and bringing in a business, it’s an opportunity to get to know everyone.” Many members use the Ontario Chamber health benefits packages for their employees. Beyond that, members look to the Chamber for education and informative guest speakers at their events.
Laura said the value of being a part of the chamber has been evident since the start of the pandemic. “Members have looked to us for direction. Items like rent relief, business grants, any of those things we see available. COVID or no COVID, we always pass beneficial opportunities along.” She added that much of the credit needs to go to the Woodstock Small Business Centre. “We were very blessed with them really jumping on board and helping local chambers with information. Thankfully, they were able to get information out very quickly to our members because it was extremely hard navigating what was happening.”
She added that the feedback from members has been a mix; they are either really thriving during the pandemic and it has brought awareness to their business, things are status quo, or they have been struggling. “It is more so the ones who rely on the public coming through their doors to spend money every day who have been hurt. The ones into trades and such have all been busy because there is so much construction going on.”
The chamber also lobbies on different issues within the community, and they even have an advocacy committee that will meet and work on a company’s behalf to overcome roadblocks in the way of business.
Despite the hard work the Chamber does on behalf of its members, Laura said it isn’t all about business. “Our awards ceremony is our biggest event with about 400 people attending. It is recognition of businesses, individuals, and student grants which are given out. We also do a Taste of Norwich event near Christmas which includes local businesses highlighting their products, and our golf tournament is always well attended.”
For more information on the Township of Norwich Chamber of Commerce, check out the website TownshipOfNorwichChamberOfComm