Chamber researches own business hub

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Meetings scheduled to plan for future of chamber of commerce

Meetings are slated to kick off this week to determine the future of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce with respects to creating and owning its own business hub.

The idea has been floating around for several years and is still in the early stages, but chair Darel Baker said progress is on the horizon.

“We’re looking at the concept that other communities have where the chamber of commerce actually has their own building,” he said. “(We’re researching) a building that encourages and creates a bit of a cluster of likeminded organizations that are developing business.”

Currently, the chamber rents space from the city in a building that is rented from the province, he said.

“We have some meetings next week, getting the committee together, that are really starting to get into more detail as to where we’re heading and what we’re doing,” Baker said.

The meetings are slated for late in the week and will include board members and members at large within the chamber. Discussions are still in the early stages and a final outcome is yet to be determined.

“We still need to see what we’re up against in terms of cost, partnerships, where the land would be available and what kinds of things we’d have to put together,” he said.

There is no timeline for when the chamber could potentially move into its own building, although Baker said he’d like to see it as soon as the organization is able.

The idea of purchasing and developing a space to act as a business centre blossomed from similar models that have proven successful in several communities throughout the province.

These frameworks are part of the planning process and the committee will be researching and reviewing these to determine if a similar model can be implemented in St. Albert.

Although a location has yet to be chosen, Baker said the committee will look into options downtown.

“We think that one real strong option is to have a strong presence downtown where a lot of the businesses are,” he said, adding this option will be explored with a number of others to ensure the form meets the function of the chamber.

Reaching a milestone

The need for an independent business centre is supported by the growth of the chamber, which reached 800 members earlier this month, a number Baker said is just the beginning.

“It’s just been another milestone along the way,” he said. “We’ve still got some work to do to get in touch and find out what else we can do to help other businesses that aren’t chamber members.”

As of February 2012, there were 2,366 businesses – both commercial and home based – that called St. Albert home, according to the City of St. Albert. This means roughly one third or 33 per cent belong to the chamber.

Although this is an accomplishment, Baker said he would like to see this number increase.

“We believe that we’ll be bringing to the table, through our membership and through the things that are provided to the membership, that every business in town should belong to the chamber,” he said.

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