The Carleton Place Chamber of Commerce continues to grow and provide an extensive range of community services, especially with respect to tourism, past president Donna MacDonald told town councillors in a presentation on Sept. 26.
“Tourism is big business,” she said, noting that visitors pump over $108 million annually into the Lanark County economy, and over $605 million to the Ontario’s Highlands tourism region in which Carleton Place is situated. MacDonald pointed with pride to achieving a high benchmark in the tourism mystery shopper program known as the OHvation customer service ranking.
Among the numerous projects focused on attracting visitors and potential residents, a series of “Welcome to Carlton Place” cards has been created geared towards new and prospective businesses. During 2018, the chamber is also looking to expand on the successful launch of this year’s bike share program with a similar approach to daily rentals of fishing gear. It is also exploring a “Mom and Hops” craft brewing tour and a local food festival.
The focus on tourism comes on top of an already busy schedule of regular activities, including a junior achiever’s program that this year hopes to work with three schools with a focus on business and financial literacy; a college of mentors to help businesses struggling with specific challenges; an engagement program that encourages young people to consider entrepreneurship as a career choice; and fostering a climate that promotes the opening of new businesses.
“We want our residents to spend their money in Carleton Place, not in Stittsville or Kanata,” MacDonald said.
In addition to staffing a visitor centre that is open seven days a week and printing an annual visitor information guide, MacDonald also said that the chamber keeps a watchful eye on provincial and federal legislation of interest to local business owners. For example, the province’s new minimum wage law to federal tax changes that have garnered considerable attention on Parliament Hill.
The chamber currently boasts some 240 members, a huge jump from the 90 who were part of the century-old organization in 2007.