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We hear the same thing every year at about this time.

At the annual general meeting of the Hay River Chamber of Commerce someone invariably asks how to increase membership and/or increase the involvement of those companies that are already part of the organization.

Those are very good questions.

Now it should be noted that chamber president Joe Melanson did say at this year’s AGM that membership is pretty strong.

On the other hand, Jane Groenewegen – a prominent businessperson, former MLA and, most importantly for this discussion, a former chamber president – told the AGM that some businesses and businesspeople who used to be very active in the organization are not any more.

Groenewegen believes some grievances or concerns in the past caused people to distance themselves from the chamber of commerce. She suggested a special meeting to air those concerns as a way to increase participation.

From an outsider’s view, it would seem that there are enough economic things to worry about today that it would not be necessary to hang on to old grievances.

So we hope that those historic problems can be settled quickly, because Hay River needs a strong and active chamber of commerce, perhaps more today than it has ever needed it.

But what do we have instead? On April 18, the AGM was supposed to start at noon at the Ptarmigan Inn. But as that hour arrived, there were just a few people at the meeting and there were rumblings that perhaps not enough members would show up for a quorum.

As it happened, 13 people showed up, and a full board of directors and executive were chosen, including some people who didn’t attend the meeting but submitted their names in writing.

While we congratulate everyone who volunteered as a director or executive member, we are still a little dismayed that only 13 people showed up for the AGM.

In a community that prides itself for its business sector, it is curious that the Hay River Chamber of Commerce is not bursting at the seams with members, and with members who want to be active in the organization.

A strong chamber of commerce can be an important voice in advocating for the business community in Hay River, whether it be with the town, the GNWT or the federal government.

And just how powerful that message is depends on the number of members and how many people are speaking with the same voice.

Right now, we feel that the Hay River Chamber of Commerce is not having as powerful a voice as it could or should.

Some people are trying to represent the business sector in Hay River, and we by no means are saying that they do not have a positive impact.

However, as the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers, especially when dealing with government.

Hay River needs a chamber of commerce with an active and vocal membership willing to provide a united front to have their opinions heard, and more importantly, listened to by government.

However, it seems that too many businesspeople are standing on the sidelines.

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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