New Belleville Chamber of Commerce CEO Jill Raycroft says growth and member input will be a major focus moving forward.
At the chamber breakfast Wednesday morning, Raycroft made her first official address since the annual gala held two weeks ago. She said the plan is to align the needs of businesses with employers, education and economic development.
Raycroft said manufacturing sector continues to express its need to increase capacity and the chamber is constantly looking at trying to sell land for new businesses coming in.
She also explained surveys will be going out to members within the next couple of weeks to address opportunities and challenges. She said it’s been two years since the chamber has conducted a survey. It will ask what the chamber should stop, start or continue doing.
New board president Derrick Morgan said it’s been a great year so far mentioning the Belleville Senators taking the rink this fall and the new Shorelines Casino Belleville that recently opened. However, he did point out a need for more funding towards the Economic and Strategic Initiatives department and groups like the Quinte Economic Development Council for things like manufacturing resources. Jon Tuer, finance committee chair echoed Morgan’s sentiments stating financially it’s been a strong year for the chamber with a lot of reserves.
Karen Poste, Manager of Economic and Strategic Initiatives for the City of Belleville expressed the importance of members voicing their concerns and suggestions to her department she can be their voice as the liaison to mayor and council.
Raycroft and outgoing CEO Bill Saunders outlined their determination in continuing to lobby the government on possible changes to Ontario workplace legislation on behalf of local businesses.
Proposed changes to the province’s labour and employment laws include mandatory sick pay, shifting the threshold for overtime, boosting the minimum paid vacation, advance scheduling, and making it easier to join a union.
“We are very concerned as a chamber,” said Saunders. “We talked to the Premier last fall. We remain very active on that file. This could have a serious negative effect on your business. We will stay on top of that.”
Raycroft pointed to a large group of millennials entering the workforce and said they expect different things.
“How are businesses going to address them when it’s imposed upon them that sick days are allowed or it’s a two to three week vacation period from the day they start?” questioned Raycroft.
Raycroft and Jim Whiteway who is a board member and Dean of Business and International at Loyalist also put an emphasis on business members utilizing the opportunity of employing college students.
Whiteway said there are currently 305 international exchange students at Loyalist bringing an estimated $2.1 million to $5 million in economic spin off to the community.
“We need to support them academically and make sure they have a place to live and have a job,” said Whiteway.
He explained students are able to work 20 hours per week as soon as they land in Canada and 40 hours per week during the summer break.
The next chamber event is the Business Card Mingle at Habitat for Humanity on March 23 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to bring extra household items like lamps and doorknobs for donation.