It’s the voice of business for the fastest growing communities in the South Island region, with a membership base spanning several municipalities.
Q+A with the WestShore Chamber of Commerce
The WestShore Chamber of Commerce supports businesses in Colwood, the Highlands, Langford, Metchosin and View Royal.
Led by Executive Director Julie Lawlor, the Chamber team advocates for a vibrant, diverse and sustainable business landscape, promoting the region as a desirable place to live, work and play. Julie tells us what economic development means to her, and what the Chamber hopes to see the WestShore region achieve over the next few decades.
Why did you join South Island Prosperity Partnership?
Our mantra in the Chambers of Commerce network is that we’re “better together” and that applies cross-sector as well. Joining SIPP means more joined-up thinking across the region, which is all to the good.
What do you see as key to growing a resilient, robust economic future for our region?
Diversity, sustainability and equity. A diverse economy helps us weather whatever challenges come our way. It has to be sustainable through reduction of our carbon footprint and mediating the impacts of climate change because otherwise it cannot be robust or resilient. And when it comes to equity, I don’t believe we can succeed as a region until every person has true access to training, education and job opportunities. We are still a long way from that.
What is our region’s secret sauce when it comes to competing internationally to attract quality talent, businesses with household sustaining jobs, and investment?
Our quality of life. We live in a truly beautiful place with a great blend of urban and rural living and top-class amenities and opportunities.
What are you most excited about in terms of your own organization’s plans and potential?
That’s a tough one because there is so much! However if I were to boil it down I’d say that I am excited that the WestShore Chamber is based in a part of the region that is constantly growing and changing, and delighted to be working with a great group of people in our board directors and staff who are committed to responding and adapting to the needs of the business community.
What’s one thing about your organization you really want people to know that they probably don’t know?
Each Chamber of Commerce in Canada is individually and separately constituted under an aged piece of legislation called the Boards of Trade Act. This means that while we are all non-profits, we cannot be charities. We’re therefore ineligible for certain kinds of funding like gaming grants. In fact, we can’t even hold a raffle!
What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?
Since the pandemic arrived, the WestShore Chamber — like all chambers — worked to provide the community with collated and curated information and resources to help businesses get through the pandemic. As we move to the other side I am more committed than ever in helping businesses thrive.
What lessons have most profoundly impacted you since the pandemic sent shockwaves through our community and economy?
How much we all rely on one another. How much collaboration can make a positive impact. And how important a thriving business community is. This is something chambers have always upheld – but during the pandemic the general public have also had this realisation in ways that they may not have previously. And a thriving business community will be crucial in getting us out of our massive federal and provincial deficits.
When you envision the South Island region in 2040, what will have changed? What does our future look like?
I am not very good at crystal ball predictions but my expectation is that we will be much further along on the path of Truth and Reconciliation with the criteria for any success or lack thereof defined by First Nations and Indigenous advocates. Our economy will be much more circular, and our transportation will be greener.