New Beginnings for the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce

Written by Mary Vellani, Chair of the Tri-Cities Chamber’s Board of Directors

First published in the Tri-City News on Thursday, August 26, 2021

September always feels as if it is the start of a New Year, even more than January 1st — perhaps even more so this September, as restrictions continue to lift, with children back to school and employees returning to offices. This is also the time when we begin to rediscover in-person events, which continue to evolve as guidelines are updated. As part of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce’s ‘New Year,’ we welcome our new CEO, Leslie Courchesne.

A seasoned leader with a proven track record in board operations, organizational leadership, policy and program development, as well as government and stakeholder relations, Leslie brings more than 20 years of experience in the public sector with her.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the Tri-Cities Chamber team as the next CEO,” says Leslie. “I am truly honoured to be chosen by the board for this role and know I have very big shoes to fill. The outgoing CEO, Michael Hind, has done a tremendous job over the past decade, working collaboratively to build the Chamber into what it is today, and fostering an incredible team. I look forward to building on this success and working on behalf of our member businesses.”

As we head into September, and the start of this new period, our Chamber team has earnestly begun planning for the future and are eagerly anticipating the return of in-person events later this year.

Our Chamber team is enthusiastically planning opportunities for our members to connect with other business leaders and entrepreneurs with the relaunch of Morning Schmooze, our popular breakfast networking event, and KICKSTART, our after-hours networking event.

We are also working on bringing back the Mayor’s BBQ, where you can get in touch and communicate with our municipal administration official directly. Moreover, with a federal election called for later this fall, the Chamber will also be hosting an All Candidates Debate featuring the federal candidates for our local ridings.

Nevertheless, while in-person events remain a priority, the Chamber recognizes the benefits that come with connecting virtually. Having reaped the benefits of online events this past year, the Chamber will still look into opportunities to run hybrid event models, especially in circumstances that allow for more engagement and participation.

As part of our educational commitment, we have partnered with YWCA Metro Vancouver on Launch2Success, a mentoring program for young entrepreneurs as they launch their start-ups. Participants are currently working with advisors and mentors to successfully develop and grow their business ideas.

In addition to Launch2Success, the Chamber also hosts a CEO Roundtable. The roundtable provides organizational leaders with the opportunity to work within a peer group to problem solve and strategize for the future of their business and gain from each other’s experience. Overall, the program has been met with considerable success during its first iteration and will be ramping up again later this Fall.

Furthermore, we have recently launched our Chamber Resource Library, a section of our website with dedicated business resources. Spanning a wide spectrum of topics, with everything from finance and e-commerce strategy to human resources and marketing, we encourage you to take a look if you haven’t had the chance to do so already.

As we take a step back to reflect, the pandemic has shown us that the Tri-Cities Chamber represents more than just businesses, business owners, and not-for-profits: the Chamber also advocates for the Tri-Cities community, as well as for the employees, families, and patrons of our local businesses.

Over the past 18 months, our Chamber was the essential resource and voice for the Tri-Cities business community. During this time, our team has worked tirelessly to keep our community, members, partners, and stakeholders well informed by providing them with access to the assistance that they needed to keep their business running.

The Tri-Cities Chamber maintains its commitment to communicating with the community and advocating at all levels of government. The Chamber will continue to ensure that our members have the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of our elected officials while continuing to push for policies and programs that allow businesses to thrive.