Chamber of Commerce Growing in the Bow Valley
Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce wants to enhance the quality of business life
While still a relatively fledgeling entity, the Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce is growing and looking to Ignite the small business community.
Since launching a few short months ago, the Chamber now has over 100 members, has set a goal of 200 by the end of early summer and 500 by the end of the year. As one of only two regional Chambers of Commerce in Alberta, the Bow Valley chapter includes the region from Lake Louise, through Banff, Canmore and Bighorn, to near Cochrane.
As a regional Chamber, the other one being Leduc/Wetaskiwin "our business model represents a departure from what small chambers do, traditionally," said Chamber president Brian McClure.
"Our vision is to be a business champion and our mission is to enhance the quality of business life for entrepreneurs in the Valley". In working towards this goal, the Bow Valley Chamber has already put in place a Member advocacy program, employee benefit plans that Members can take advantage of, created an online Member business directory, lined up special business-related events, teamed up with McMaster University's DeGroote School of Business and revived the Business Excellence Awards with the support of the Canmore Rotary Club.
Ignite - Business Accelerator and Incubator Program for Entrepreneurs
Now, the Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce is creating "Ignite", a suite of business accelerator and incubator programs for entrepreneurs. For "Ignite" the Chamber has in place access to a number of strategic alliances including funding for suitably qualified projects through a venture capital fund, advanced business educational components such as working with the DeGroote faculty and in a potential cooperation with Bow Valley College, is looking to develop a business "boot camp" portfolio of educational programs for up and coming entrepreneurs, together with an alliance with the new StartUp Bow Valley program to assist first-time entrepreneurs to successfully get up and running with a viable start-up business model.
With "Ignite' the Chamber is looking to stimulate and nurture innovation and business excellence among existing local entrepreneurs while also promoting economic diversity by identifying and supporting viable new industry sectors that would also potentially increase Chamber membership. In particular, the Chamber has identified the knowledge industry as one to be encouraged in the area and where future significant high-value economic growth is most likely.
"There are already many knowledge workers residing in this area", said Brian McClure, "but most of them work in research facilities in Calgary or Edmonton. We'd like to create a work environment for them here in the Valley that would also attract and nurture additional knowledge workers engaged in innovation, technology-based research initiatives, particularly in the areas of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and computer science that can eventually be scaled into viable, high-value businesses. It's a growing, and increasingly important, economic segment in both Ontario and in Alberta and we feel that Canmore is well positioned to develop a viable presence, with a low-impact environmental footprint, in that research space in the province."
Technology Research Community
The Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce Board believes that Canmore and the Bow Valley has many of the attributes for it to become a Palo Alto or Waterloo-style technology research community "destination of choice", where knowledge workers want to reside and work to combine career and lifestyle. Already, the Bow Valley Chamber has formed a panel of research/computer science engineers, entrepreneurs, and economic development experts, who are residents in Canmore, to explore the viability of developing such a technology research community model in the Valley.
"There is a precedent for a Chamber of Commerce to be involved in this type of initiative, "said Brian McClure. "Innovate Calgary", for example, is a similar technology research business accelerator and incubator model and is a collaborative venture between the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, the City of Calgary and the University of Calgary. We are actively looking to establishing a similar, but initially smaller, facility in Canmore which would include a physical space that would be suitably equipped to be populated with research engineers and computer scientists in various disciplines developing, for example, algorithms and related software programs for applications that would most likely be affiliated with the technology research faculties at the University of Calgary, or University of Alberta, or both."
Bow Valley Chamber a Catalyst
"The Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce could play the same role as the Calgary Chamber does with "Innovate Calgary" and be a catalyst to bring people and ideas together and help diversify the local economy. Those in the knowledge industry tend to be highly educated and looking for many of the services available here in the Valley. They generally have high disposable income to be able to comfortably afford to live here and to support the many other small businesses in the community. We see them as potentially enhancing a young, vibrant working middle class in the Valley. An important part of the social and economic fabric of the community that needs to be further developed and nurtured to ensure a stable, balanced and sustainable economy in the Valley for the future."
In providing and supporting these initiatives the "Ignite" program is fulfilling the Chamber's vision to be a business champion, and it's mission to enhance the quality of business life in the Valley.