ST. MARY’S – To help the area rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and frame its economic agenda for years to come, the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s will kickstart efforts to establish a new chamber of commerce for local businesses as soon as next year.
“A chamber of commerce would allow St. Mary’s businesses a collaborative and organized approach to further interests for the business community, including: networking, advertising, advocating, and planning,” recently appointed economic development officer [EDO] Marissa Jordan told the Journal in an email, adding: “In the next year or so, the municipality will be exploring the idea.”
The district has been without a formal trade and commerce organization since 2016, when the last one fizzled after only 12 months. But, Jordan said, such a body “has the potential to provide resources for local businesses to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic and further the economic development of St. Mary’s … [It] could also provide insight for additional local business possibilities and foster entrepreneur guidance with local youth.”
Jordan introduced the plan during her first official appearance as EDO to council’s committee of the whole last month.
“Over the next few months … [I will] work on an economic development plan that will include establishing an economic development committee and … looking at establishing a chamber of commerce for the area,” she told councillors.
Essential to this agenda will be approving and rolling out the district’s new municipal planning strategy (MPS) and land use bylaw from Halifax-based Fathom Studio, the urban design consultant hired last year to update the 15-year-old framework.
“We have the documents in draft form,” Jordan noted. “We are looking to use August for revisions and editing. I am hoping to have the final drafts to council by September 1.”
With the new MPS updates, she said in her email, “Council will begin to explore a more focused approach to economic development. A chamber of commerce run by local businesses could strengthen that plan.”
While noting that local government and its administration initiated “an active chamber” once before, in 2014-2015, which subsequently failed to gain momentum in the community, she said, “The municipality has seen an increase in new local businesses and entrepreneurs and recognizes the value that they bring to the St. Mary’s economy.”
She added: “Ideally, the municipality would begin the process of starting this [new chamber of commerce] and provide support to the members, but ultimately the chamber of commerce is run solely in the interest, and [on the] direction, of local businesses, themselves.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal