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The Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce has served as the voice of the business community in Truro and Colchester since 1891. The strength and endurance that the chamber has experienced is a product of its ability to maintain relevance and by attracting the support of a strong and committed group of volunteers to participate on the board. Entering the 127th year of service, the chamber recently participated in a strategic planning session to help identify opportunities to focus its efforts over the next three to five years.

Maintaining relevance in a competing and changing business environment was a common theme raised during the day-long session. Living off the coattails of past chamber successes or the standing commitment of established business is no longer a sustainable marketing or member attraction and retention tool. Today’s businesses scrutinize their expense statements, looking for opportunities to trim costs. Memberships in a variety of sector and community related organizations are often an easy cut, when value of the membership is not easily identifiable.

Millennials comprise a growing segment of the small business environment. The interest and focus of this demographic are different than those of previous generations. The chamber, much like any business, must evolve to the changing business landscape by adapting practices that support and appeal to the member and customer needs.

Being content with status quo is a common yet undesirable trait that often limits a company’s ability to grow. The reluctance to change leads to a disengaged and unproductive workforce, where businesses lose their competitive advantage as more committed and resourceful entrepreneurs capture greater market share in a competitive environment.

Natural resources in Nova Scotia continue to contribute significantly to the province’s economy. The One Nova Scotia Report recommended advancing the development of these resources in an effort to grow the economy of the province. The process to mine, harvest or extract these resources, however, has come under greater scrutiny, as citizens and environmentalists challenge industry on the sustainability and environmental impact the processes present. Trepidation is often present when change is proposed, however, over fear of the economic viability and the potential for loss of jobs.

British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in North America to institute a Carbon Tax. Industries and individuals are taxed at a $30/tonne of equivalent CO2 Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. Resistance to a carbon tax was obvious, however, BC now has established a means to reward those industries that invest to reduce emissions, while punishing those that don’t. Businesses have spawned and adapted to meet the new standard which has further contributed to a healthier environment.

Consumers and citizens have tremendous power to influence business through their purchasing power. Having an open mind that includes listening to the needs of the customer, identifying public sentiment while evolving to reduce costs and advance a product or service, will support the sustainability of the business and lead to a healthy and inviting economy.

Andrew Lake is President of the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce. He is Project Manager with Will-Kare Paving and Contracting.