Chamber welcomes three new directors at AGM; prepares for new president

Peachland Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting on May marked the start of a couple new chapters – it was the first event held by Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards at Greata Ranch after an 18-month-long hibernation, and Dave Collins stopped down after three years as president.

Collins, who’s a well-known realtor in town, will remain with the Chamber as a director.

While some things may change under a new president, “Our mission statement has always been to promote Peachland as a place to visit, work, play and invest,” said Collins.

Looking into the future, he believes Peachland’s housing will be in high demand because of two trends – current residents looking for options to downsize, as well as new people wanting to move into Peachland. Through the efforts of the Chamber and other stakeholders, Collins hopes the local economic climate will improve and entice more developers to invest.

“We’re so short on places to live in Peachland,” he said.

Collins first stepped up to become to president because he saw strong potential in Peachland and wanted to see it move forward in a progressive way, “To just see it get better and improve; be part of the business community which has so many good people.”

One of Collins’ proudest accomplishments as president was overseeing the Chamber sign on as become the anchor tenant of the old Peachland Primary School (now the Visitor Centre and Art Gallery). Through that agreement, the Chamber secured federal and provincial grant funding to renovate the historic building.

“We then negotiated a five-year contract for the Chamber to host the Visitor Centre in that building and be responsible for the operation.”

In every community they operate, Chambers always serve the interests of local businesses, but in a smaller town of 5,000 like Peachland, Collins believes that members get far stronger representation compared to a big city.

“Outside of small towns, their voice can be lost in the shadow of larger urban centres.”

But regardless of population, each Chamber deals with the unique challenges of its community. And Collins said his opportunity to network with his counterparts across B.C. gave him a deeper understanding of the comprehensive work taken on by other Chambers.

Chambers are a sounding board for political discourse, he said. Advocating for sensible policy can be done effectively by engaging all three levels of government. Collins points out how many people who run for public office have Chamber experience, such as MP Dan Albas and MLA Dan Ashton, both former members of the Penticton Chamber.

“Civic leaders often come from business backgrounds – they first learn about sensible policy formation through the Chamber of Commerce.”

Collectively, each local Chamber across the province is part of a bigger body, the BC Chamber of Commerce, which has even more influence over public policy.

“They have a whole section of policy changes they’ve implemented on their website – it’s actually a fascinating process.”

Until Collins’ successor is chosen at the Chamber’s next meeting on May 22, he will continue to serve as interim president. To the next president, he has some advice: “Just remember that Peachland has a wonderful business community and they are worth your time and effort. Together we have tremendous strength and influence in advocating for Peachland to grow and prosper for the benefit of all Peachlanders.”

In addition to naming the new president, the next board meeting will also determine the new vice president, treasurer and secretary. But during the AGM – which was attended by 71 guests, three new directors became part of the board – Travis Oleniak, Murrey Wood and Julia Debolt.

Patrick Van Minsel has extended his contract as executive director and will continue that role for at least another three years. He says membership is at a healthy level with 132.

“We’re very happy that we have nine directors, for a small chamber that’s impressive,” he said.

Whoever becomes the new president will put his or her own stamp on things, Van Minsel said. But the mandate won’t change –  “the Chamber is staying the same direction we’re going right now – we’re really trying to put Peachland on the map.”

A few extra visitors will probably be coming to Peachland this summer to visit Fitzpatrick Vineyards now that the legendary winery is open again.

“(Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards president Gordon Fitzpatrick) is new member to the Peachland chamber so we thought it would be a good idea to have the AGM there,” said Van Minsel.

“The spot is just amazing. Look at that patio, see outside, breathtaking views, could soon be the place to go. It will be busy, busy, busy during summer. And the quality of wine and champagne is incredible.”

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