Is the Chamber of Commerce still relevant?

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
July 25, 2017 - 8:23am

KAMLOOPS — Last week at City Council, the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce was a topic of conversation and concern.  In a letter to the City, the Chamber, on behalf of all their members, was claiming the Ajax mine would create 10,000 jobs in Kamloops.

The 10,000, which to the best of my knowledge has never been used in any prior economic estimates, came as a surprise both for its size and the source.  The source, it turns out, was not the result of the Chamber’s own studies of independent industrial or scholarly reviews, but was provided to them by KGHM, the mine’s majority owner.  

A Chamber spokesperson later explained the 10,000 figure represented more than just direct jobs and included all other support and ancillary employment that could be directly attributed to the mine.  Yet no recent studies, no documentation, nothing to date has been provided to support this hereto unheard of employment claim of a 20% increase in the City’s labour force.  Statistical relevance and accuracy went no further than an unsubstantiated claim that it matches the experience of New Gold and Highland Valley.

This from an organization that represents the business community yet provides nothing that would come close to passing the sniff test in a real-life corporate boardroom.  By that I mean, submitting a business case built on evidence provided by a bias benefactor with a vested interest in the outcome would be a career-ending act in the real corporate world.  

Worse yet, the origin for those numbers was not voluntarily disclosed and was only made available when the City pressed the Chamber to identify their source.  

To me that indicates even the Chamber was a little uneasy with those numbers and this failure to be open and transparent nor seriously test the evidence does not reflect well on an organization founded on the principles of good business practices and community trust.  

There was something else I noticed about the claim of employing 10,000 people and the declaration that the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce supports the Kamloops open pit mine.  

What I’ve been seeing lately on social media is that the new economy entrepreneurs and business owners aren’t necessarily all on board with the Chamber’s claim of business support for the mine.  These are the people building the diversified economy the Chamber, City Council, Venture Kamloops and many others want to see happen in Kamloops.

These young, smart, mobile entrepreneurs are questioning the relevance of the Chamber and wondering if the organization has lost touch with them.  They have started to openly question the relevance of the old guard or old-boys network and their failure to innovate beyond the familiar and sometimes planet and people destroying old-ways of doing business.

The new economy innovators do not see harming or destroying the environment in pursuit of a dollar as an acceptable or appropriate way to conduct business or make money.  

If for instance, copper is important to our manufacturing industries, the progressive business creator will look at finding ways to make copper irrelevant by replacing it with a new technological process. Whereas, old school thinking is stuck on the concept of digging massive and irreparable pits beside Kamloops while justifying it with questionable claims of 10,000 new jobs.

When I see organizations like Tourism Kamloops and Kamloops Innovation working tirelessly and successfully to create a future for our City that is eco friendly, sustainable and profitable, I can’t help but wonder why the Chamber seems stuck on an economic model more familiar to the 19th and 20th centuries.

Maybe the letter the Chamber needs to write is one that shows their ideas for diversifying our economy, protecting the environment and health of our community, growing employment beyond a limited two decade, single sector time frame and bringing our City into the 21st century.