It was nearly a year in the making, but its life expectancy will be triple. Since last spring, the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce were busy working on a blueprint for its future, and last Wednesday, it unveiled the final document of its three-year strategic plan at its annual general meeting.
In one of his final duties as president, Dan Mahoney gave members an overview of what the plan entailed. Simply put, to be bigger and better in three years.
“We did a survey to see what the membership was asking for, and they asked for improved support and to encourage new members to come onboard,” said Mahoney, who for the next year will sit in the past-president’s chair. “These are the areas we concentrated on in our strategic plan, originally setting out five goals but narrowing them down to three in the final plan.”
Mahoney said the reason the goals were reduced was to ensure they were attainable within the organization, consisting of 11 volunteer members on the board of directors and two paid staff members.
“We have to be realistic in our goals in relation to the resources we have to work on them,” he said. “If we’re going to set goals we need to make sure they are doable, especially with our staff because they are the ones going to be working on it day-to-day.
The first of the goals in the plan, according to Mahoney, is focused on the needs of current members through support, encouragement, advocacy and growth.
It includes such aspects as increasing membership awareness and participation in the chamber’s group insurance plan, putting more emphasis on membership growth outside of Gander, increasing the number of round table discussion for members, and making new business people feel welcomed to the area.
Growth hasn’t been too much of a concern for the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce, especially during the past number of years. Just this year, the chamber surpassed the 300-membership mark, making it the second largest, behind the St. John’s Board of Trade, in the province.
It also meant a change nationally for the local chamber within the structure of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
“It shifts us from the rural to urban classification, and now we’ll be sitting at the table with the Montreals, Torontos and large urban chambers when you go to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce meetings,” said Mahoney. “This is a very important factor, because it gives us an idea of what’s happening in the larger centres, thus generating new ideas we may be able to incorporate heading into the future.”
While membership is a leading focus in the chamber’s three-year plan, promoting prosperity in order to build “a strong and diversified economy in the region” is second on the list.
“We need to continue on with business retention and expansion…economic development in general,” said Mahoney. “This will require us to work with government of all three levels, as well as other collaborative partners, to make sure there are economic development opportunities in our region.”
Within the economic development focus will be an updated marketing campaign, moving from the old “I Believe In Gander,” to what Mahoney said is a more regional-based campaign — Live Here, Work Here, Play Here.
“The intent is to get people to support what’s in their community and not look outside their community for services,” he said. “We’ll be working with local town councils to promote and support this new campaign.”
The plan wraps up with a goal of improving its communication, within its organization as well as around the globe.
“If you’re not communicating effectively then you have issues with an uninformed membership, so we want to ensure our members know what’s happening, as well as getting out there (to members and potential new members) what the benefits are of being a member of our chamber,” said Mahoney.
To accomplish this, he said the chamber will be looking at several avenues, including a more comprehensive information package for new members, person-to-person meetings with new members, development of a communications strategy for its membership, and improving its use of media such as local newspaper, radio and television, as well as social media.
“The new generation of business and population is certainly moving into the social media aspect, and we need to get up with the times,” he said.
Mahoney said the board of directors feel this is a good three-year strategic plan, and is the first of its kind put in place by the chamber since its five-year plan in the 2000s.
“The old one had really expired, so this one is certainly needed to keep us updated with what’s happening and be able to grow,” he said. “It is truly a representation of what our members are looking for, and truly focuses on our bottom line — membership growth and our members becoming more active in chamber activities.”