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Welcome to the first column written by the East Hants & Districts Chamber of Commerce (EHCC). This will be a monthly column about EHCC and the issues important to the local business community. We appreciate any feedback or suggested topics you would like to hear about.

The first question I usually hear from non-members is “what is a chamber of commerce?” The simple answer is it is a group of businesses that have organized to further the interests of the business community. The first chamber was formed in 1599 in France and the concept has spread worldwide with a wide variety of structures.

EHCC was founded in 1986 as a non-profit organization focused on growing and promoting our members. We offer the business community a voice in matters of collective economic interest and provide our members with services to assist them in their ability to do business. We have an elected board that governs on behalf of the membership and a committee structure that ensures we are working towards defined goals.

Our committee structure is what makes our chamber successful. In future columns we will focus on specific work of some of our committees including Education, Think Local First, Advocacy, Events, Communications and Membership. These committees work hard to ensure we meet our member’s needs by providing education courses, organizing events to promote shopping locally, meeting with elected officials to discuss issues, and organizing networking events. Our volunteers work many hours to help build a stronger community.

I want to highlight some of the work that our committees did this year to help our business community succeed. Our education committee is tasked with providing opportunities to build the skills set necessary to operate a successful business in the modern world. We meet regularly with government workplace education officials to ensure that we access all programs available to meet these needs. Our courses range from basic communication and computer skills to advanced strategies for taking established businesses to the next level. Talk to anyone who has taken a course through EHCC and you will hear multiple stories of how it has helped them to grow their business and to adapt to a changing business environment. We were happy to hear multiple award winners at our annual Business Excellence Awards reference the value of the courses in their acceptance speeches.

Our most popular event this year was our Open East Hants day held in May. Our Think Local First committee organized this event. The committee role is to help promote shopping locally by highlighting the broad range of businesses we have in East Hants. Businesses across East Hants opened their doors to welcome new and regular clients in and many joined with neighboring businesses to create a festive environment that day. We have already had many who did not participate last year contacting us to join for the next annual event.

Our advocacy committee operates under the radar mostly. It is tasked with meeting elected officials and government staff to promote open discussion and development of policies that facilitate business growth. We cooperate with other chamber groups to add strength to that message. We host candidate forums during elections and recently published a candidate questionnaire during the municipal election. The committee also acts as a sounding board for the EHCC board to gauge if we are in line with the general consensus of the business community.

Our events committee is charged with organizing our networking events as well as coordinating with other committees on events they may need assistance with. We have some new events launching in January for 2017 so we hope to see you soon.

Our communications committee’s goal is to get our message out to the community. We have a website which was completely redone over the last 2 years; we have a monthly newsletter as well as periodic emails to members. We are also active on Facebook and twitter and now we have this column.

I encourage you to contact us and get involved. A strong Chamber helps build a stronger community. Our members are not only the local businesses you shop at but they are your neighbors. They sponsor your kid’s sports teams and donate to your fundraising events. They volunteer their time to most committees and groups in our community. Your support of them means our community will continue to grow and thrive and will allow more of our kids to stay in East Hants if they choose.

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Abby Cameron
Abby Cameron is the Editor of The Weekly Press and the Laker. She grew up in Shubenacadie and loves serving her home community. She has been with The Weekly Press for almost 10 years. In her spare time she enjoys kayaking, coaching, and spending time with her partner and two dogs.