Hello 2020! We’ve got lots in store for Chamber members to kick off a new decade, but the purpose of this post is to look at what Chamber accomplished in 2019 to bring business into our region, provide direct support to Chamber members, and to help the community at large.
Scroll down to read what happened in 2019 in these areas of focus:
- WORKSHOPS (Business Development)
- MARKETING MUSKOKA LAKES
- HOSTING PROVINCE WIDE CONVENTION (Bringing Business Here)
- FLOOD SUPPORT
- PROMOTING MEMBERS
- RUNNING AND PROMOTING EVENTS
- BUSINESS AWARDS & FUNDING
- SEEKING NEW MEMBER PERKS
- GATHERING MEMBER FEEDBACK
We advocated (and are still lobbying hard!) for changes to housing rules that create barriers to attainable development – we need housing to help ease the pain from staff shortages. In fact, we’ve taken matters into our own hands when it comes to staff recruitment. We developed a Workforce Attraction Project to entice staff to come live and work here (paid video ads aimed at bringing staff here are running as you read this). We have also created a job board for you to post your jobs and when you post them here they also appear on the JobCentral board that displays your jobs across Muskoka and Simcoe. And we’ll attend Muskoka Job Fairs again for our members this year. We applaud our Chamber members who are being innovative in finding ways to house and transport employees, and we’re asking our governments to consider incentives for these innovators.
We are continuing to lobby all levels of government to take action on the lack of housing. For example, there are barriers to building housing on areas that are not on public services like sewer and water so that limits housing development to ‘urban’ Bala and Port Carling. Something has to give, and we constantly remind our politicians that housing, workforce attraction and the ongoing need for better Internet are at crisis levels that must be addressed (while still protecting our environment).
More advocacy wins: Lobbied the federal government together with Boating Ontario and other organizations to successfully remove tariffs that were hurting our marine industry. Worked with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on a variety of policy recommendations to the Ontario government. Was a working member of the Regional Economic Development policy group resulting in the policy publication, The Great Mosaic, Reviving Ontario’s Regional Economies. We had Chamber members chime in on the development of policy regarding the sale of alcohol in Ontario. Our Executive Director and Board Secretary met directly with Ministers at the Ontario Economic Summit to talk about removing barriers to business growth in rural areas. We met with Health Ministry staff and our local MPP for one of our Chamber members who is offering OHIP covered care for those affected by the opioid crisis.
Locally, we’re involved with the Muskoka Labour Summit, the Muskoka Employment Partnership, South Muskoka Community Partners, the District Transportation group and sit on the Township Economic Development Committee, Muskoka Tourism and Explorers’ Edge – all with a view to make sure your business voice is heard.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT (Workshops)
We ran two WSIB First Aid and CPR courses, a Food Handling Certification Course, a Grant Writing Workshop and a DiscoverAbility session to help employers understand their responsibilities and the staffing opportunities available to them by hiring employees with disabilities. In 2020, there’s a workshop or speaker almost every month, everything from Succession Planning to Health and Safety in the Workplace and inspiring speakers.
Feedback from surveys and focus groups told us you want more learning opportunities like these.
SUPPORTING AND MARKETING MUSKOKA LAKES
BRINGING BUSINESS HERE & HELPING FLOOD VICTIMS
- Brought over 300 delegates of Chambers and Boards of Trade from across the province (and all provincial political leaders and lots of press) to experience Muskoka Lakes as host of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) annual convention.
Over a third of delegates had never visited Muskoka and they’ll be back. Thanks to all the Chamber members who showcased their products and services through sponsorship of this event. Did you know, that we are the smallest Chamber ever (with the help of our partner, the Gravenhurst Chamber) to host this prestigious event?
What was in it for you? Part of our mandate is to promote local tourism (always with a goal to bring you more customers) and many of these delegates run tourism information centres in their hometowns. Delegates got to enjoy the excellent conference facilities at the JW Marriott, toured Muskoka Lakes, and also experienced the Muskoka Discovery Centre to learn more about Muskoka. Plus, with the Premier and other leaders here for this event, there was a great media focus on Muskoka Lakes.
- Raised over $20,000 for flood victims as Chambers and Board of Trade across the province chipped in after seeing for themselves the devastating effects when they visited in May. That money went to Muskoka Victim Services to help individuals, but we helped Chamber member businesses dealing with the flood aftermath in other ways. For example, your Chamber helped Chamber members access interest free flood loans. We made sure those affected knew about these loans and even helped fill out applications. We also requested the District allow the Peerless II to stay docked at the Port Carling locks while their docks on Muskoka River were rebuilt.
We organized free radio promotions from January-April and again in the summer when we partnered with Destination Ontario to bring Barrie’s Fresh Radio crew to see the sights in Muskoka Lakes and host their morning show from Clevelands House. Listeners also had the chance to win a stay in Muskoka Lakes with gift certificates to several of our attractions and businesses. The radio station estimated the promotional value of the radio, the videos on social media and more at $35,000. In 2020, watch for our Great Places to See promotion on CTV.
SOCIAL MEDIA PROMOTIONS
Using funds raised from our Spotlight on Muskoka Lakes event, we ran three paid social media campaigns urging people to visit member businesses in Bala, Glen Orchard, Minett and Port Carling.
We also advertised our Business After Hours and networking events (at Tri Lakes Training, Port Carling Legion/Hospice Muskoka, Sherwood Inn (a Know your Benefits night), the Annual Meeting at JW Marriott, and Moose Feathers and Morgan Davis Print Museum ribbon cutting), to advertise members hosting these events.
It’s a new year – remember to bring us your updated marketing material. Our Information Centres in Bala and Port Carling are staffed with delightful people who are thrilled to point visitors toward your business. This direct, frontline promotion of where to go and what to do in Muskoka is extremely valuable.
BUSINESS AWARDS AND FUNDING
We take advantage of business awards or funding opportunities whenever they arise. In 2019, we were proud to nominate Chamber member businesses who went on to win provincial and federal awards for their achievements. We voted for our members to help them win Muskoka awards. We helped members write funding applications for things like summer student funding.
There have been funding cuts to certain programs, but always ask us when you are expanding, developing something new or looking for funding for staff. We pay careful attention to what’s happening in the funding world and do all we can to help you access money and resources to help you grow.
EVENT AND GOOD NEWS PROMOTION
We get great feedback about our weekly eblasts in the summer and twice monthly eblasts the rest of the year listing member and relevant community events going on. We also hear from members when their events are NOT listed. Here’s the thing – we need you to keep us in the loop so we can share your events. We can’t know what we don’t know! And don’t be shy – tell us when you have other good news to share. Your Chamber colleagues want to know and share. We’re in this together.
We ran events: Midday Madness, the Muskoka Lakes Christmas Market, Santa Claus Parade, Tree Lighting, Spotlight on Muskoka Lakes and a Pride Festival Picnic. We expanded new tourism products, such as the Muskoka Cranberry Route. We also provide a great deal of support to the Bala Cranberry Festival, Trek to Bethlehem, and do our best to promote other community events. In particular, Chamber-run events give Chamber members an opportunity to get involved as sponsors or participants to not only show their community spirit but to promote themselves.
PRINT & DIGITAL PROMOTION
We partner in the Muskoka Visitor Guide –distributed across the GTA and Muskoka, and 15,000 copies of our local Muskoka Lakes directory flew off the shelves last year. There’s still time to get your ad in (on top of your free business listing). Just email us. You can also advertise on our website. This year, we have plans to write blog posts highlighting members in different sectors.
SEEKING MORE MEMBER PERKS
We work with the Ontario and Canadian Chambers to bring you even more Chamber member benefits. Our ChambersPlan health insurance plan is top notch and we have other benefits that might apply specifically to you (check out Essential Business Services for productivity and export tools) – and we’re looking to add more. Did you know we provide document certification services for exporting your goods? You can get that done at our office in Bala. And we’re looking at adding online document certification. You also deserve some fun! This year, we’re offering a Chamber member only trip together with the Gravenhurst and Bracebridge Chambers. You can experience a great, affordable trip to Portugal leaving October 28.
WE LISTEN TO YOU
We held regional focus groups in Minett, Port Carling, Bala and Rosseau in late 2019 to learn more about what you need in your respective communities. Thank you to Chamber members who responded to our surveys as well. Please know we’re always here to listen to you – pick up the phone or send us an email. Your feedback is welcomed and necessary for our mutual success.
Whew – that was a whirlwind tour of 2019. Have you got some ideas for the Chamber for 2020? Bring them on. We love to hear from you, and we’re excited for what this new year has in store. Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy New Year!