Chamber looking to bridge gaps, promote French businesses

·2 min read

The Timmins Chamber of Commerce is looking for ways to support and promote French businesses within the community.

The chamber held a virtual discussion with local francophone business owners Wednesday morning.

About 20 people attended the event, facilitated by chamber president Melanie Verreault. The session also featured an opening presentation by Richard Kempler, the executive director of Fédération des gens d'affairs francophones de l'Ontario.

Verreault said the chamber wanted to hold a roundtable discussion with the local French businesses to identify gaps in services and programs within the community and discuss how the chamber could bridge those gaps. The discussions also focused on how to raise awareness about French and bilingual businesses that are available in the community.

“We’re here to support our members that do identify as bilingual offering French services and how we can help them promote that platform even more,” Verreault said.

One of the gaps identified at the session was a lack of knowledge of what organizations and businesses identify as French, so that they can network, share resources and support each other, Verreault said.

“Even when I think about new businesses that do identify as francophone, at least there could be an opportunity to get some mentorship or get some support from another business member of ours that has been established in the community that is bilingual,” she said.

One of the big barriers for French businesses was translation services, especially during the ongoing pandemic as safety measures have to be put in place and followed.

“A lot of it seemed to be along the lines of translation, documents and information from English to French,” Verreault said.

She said the chamber will partner with its French members and look at the qualitative data gathered from today’s event to decide what can be done. At the event, there were also some recommendations to create a francophone business hub.

“If there are people who don't speak French in our community but still want to learn about the francophone culture ... I think it's important we do embrace that. We welcome people in, anybody could be identified as francophile. I think that’s a big plus, I’m very optimistic we’re heading in that direction,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to what the next steps are going to hold for us.”

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com