Castlegar Chamber of Commerce building. (File)                                Castlegar Chamber of Commerce building. (File)

Castlegar Chamber of Commerce building. (File) Castlegar Chamber of Commerce building. (File)

Busy year for Castlegar Chamber and Visitor Centre

Chamber of Commerce membership grew and more people visited the Visitor Centre in 2017.

Representatives from the Castlegar Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre made a presentation to city council last week about how things went over the last year.

Chamber of Commerce

The Castlegar Chamber of Commerce grew by 40 members last year.

“We are very proud of our achievements,” said Chamber of Commerce executive director Tammy Verigin-Burk. “This last year we were in the top-five finalists for the province for the B.C. Chamber of the Year awards.” She noted that there were 114 chambers competing including Vancouver, Kelowna and Victoria.

“I believe some of the work we have been doing is getting noticed,” added Verigin-Burk.

She also lists the Chamber’s manufacturing study, workshops, the launch of the economic development program, downtown empty storefronts tour and business walk as accomplishments.

“I believe our achievements have shown that there is a direct correlation between how hard we are working to the renewed faith that people have in the Chamber of Commerce,” said Verigin-Burk.

Verigin-Burk estimates that 65 to 70 per cent of Castlegar’s businesses are chamber members and she is pleased to see the level of support and camaraderie business owners have with each other.

The West Kootenay Trade Show was sold out last year and this year’s show is looking to be sold out as well even though the space has been expanded. The interior space is already sold out and demand for outside space is increasing.

The Chamber of Commerce building is a very busy hub, housing not just the chamber and visitor centre, but the economic development office and Community Futures as well.

Plans are still being developed for a new building and the chamber hopes to break ground in 2019.

“You have a fantastic board that works really hard,” said Castlegar city councillor Dan Rye at the council meeting. It is amazing the change at the chamber in the last few years, I attribute it to yourselves [Tammy Verigin-Burk and Anna Kaytor], the staff and the board that is behind you — keep up the good work.”

Visitor Centre

In spite of a decrease in numbers in July and August at the Visitor Centre due to wildfires and smoke, total numbers for the year were up by almost 400 visitors, with 14,459 people checking out the centre.

Verigin-Burk explained that those numbers only reflect people that actually came in the doors of the centre, they don’t reflect other members of the same party who may have remained in their vehicles, explored the grounds or used the sani-dump.

The number of inquiries from people looking to invest or relocate to Castlegar also was up with 961 queries.

Visitors from around the world stopped in Castlegar including more than 2200 from the United States, 735 from Asia and Australia and 1099 from Europe.

The centre fielded 2702 inquiries about Sculpturewalk, 1249 about Millennium Park and Ponds, 2329 about Zuckerberg Island, 1866 about the Station Museum and 2001 about the Doukhobour Discovery Centre. These statistics only include in-person inquiries and Verigin-Burk reports there were thousands more done over the phone.

“What has been extremely exciting for us is to see the build-up of how many people are contacting us from the West Kootenays looking to go to the Millennium Ponds and Sculpture Walk,” said Verigin-Burk.

One thing that was new last year was a pop-up tent visitor centre in downtown Castlegar Fridays through Mondays during the summer as staffing allowed. If the Visitor Centre receives funding for enough summer students this year they hope to expand the program.