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AGM for the Chamber of Commerce

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

DEEP RIVER – The Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce needs to unite  as a whole as they face the future together.


This according to the chamber's president Maria Morena-Church, who started her second term after being reaffirmed to the position at the UOVCOC annual general meeting, held in the Bear's Den in Deep River Wednesday.

“This is a year of excitement,” she said in her address to the membership, noting 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the chamber of commerce. She said this year's awards gala will be held April 28, the exact day of the chamber's anniversary.

Morena-Church said in this last term of office for her, she wants to be able to bring the entire chamber closer together and unify its objectives. For too long it has been assumed to be centred on Pembroke and Petawawa and no where else, which is why years ago the name was changed to reflect the entire Upper Ottawa Valley.

“We are more than that, we are also Eganville, and Cobden and Deep River” and places in between, she said. Attending events in locations across their coverage area shows their members are willing to look beyond their town limits and get together.

Morena-Church said they should also look upon this year as an opportunity to bring in the next generation of entrepreneurs as members of the chamber of commerce. They need to re-educate business people on the need and importance of their organization and its advocacy role for local business.

Morena-Church also encouraged everyone to come out and support each other and their businesses in the community and elsewhere, showing unity within the Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The annual general meeting featured as guest speakers four of the county's political leaders: Renfrew County Warden and Bonnechere Valley Mayor Jennifer Murphy. Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet, Whitewater Region Mayor Hal Johnson and Deep River Mayor Joan Lougheed. All explained the importance of encouraging economic development in their municipalities.

Murphy said in Eganville they had lost several businesses, and found some buildings were in bad shape, but by introducing a community improvement plan, approved by the province, they were able to see the resources restored and businesses take up occupancy.

An all volunteer group. the Eganville and Area Community Development Group. Within eight months of forming it had already developed a park and are working on a boardwalk along the Bonnechere River.

“We all want tourism,” Murphy said, stating this is something they need to keep on pushing for, “and it is up to all of us to put our best foot forward.”

Johnson said he once came from a beautiful area considered in the middle of nowhere, and now they are looked at as the people in the middle of everything due to the activities occurring in his municipality.

He pointed to the Whitewater Brewery, started by two former whitewater guides who didn't want to leave the area, so they created this business. With the backing of the municipality, what started in 2016 has become a massive business employing around 100 employees.

“When you are a winner, everyone wants to get to know you,” Johnson said, stating one of the most important things councils can do is encourage economic development as much as they can.

“It is building our future,” he said.

Sweet said this year, Petawawa continues to expand with a new hotel, housing and apartment building projects underway, plus planning projects such as an economic development strategy and master fire plan due to wrap up real soon. The municipality will be doing between $4 to $5 million in capital projects, spend another $750,000 on maintenance and $90,000 maintaining their section of the Algonquin Trail, which he sees as the key to future growth in the tourism sector, one of the pillars in the local economy.

“Tourism is a rising star in Renfrew County, and that trail will be the backbone of that,” he said.

Bill 148, which legislated the recent hike in the minimum wage, will prove to be challenging, Sweet said. For the town alone, it means $65,000 in additional expenses for its labour force alone, which is about a one per cent tax hike.

“Translating that expense to small businesses, and you see the challenges they face,” he said.

Lougheed said the future looks bright for Deep River, thanks to plans with Atomic Energy of Canada and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. She said their recent fire service agreement will prove to be a totally unique one in the country, and a beneficial one.

She said the key to continued prosperity is for everyone to work together, not just businesses to businesses, but municipal councils to businesses.

“We can work better for you if you work with us to let us know what you need,” Lougheed said, noting the community wouldn't have it as good as they do without the presence of business, especially small business and entrepreneurialship.

She said with municipal elections coming up, people should be thinking of who to vote for and how they can get involved. The municipality is the closest level of government to the people, and so is one of the more important as it affects them more directly that the other levels.

“It is the one you need to get engaged in,” Lougheed said, and encouraged the public to examine their candidates carefully, or think of urging people to run for council, or even running themselves.

In other business, Johnston and Mackie Ltd. was named the Dedicated Member of the Year 2017, and the Valley Artisan Group received an award for having the After Hours Event of the Year 2017.

Sworn in as members of the 2018 Board of Directors are as follows:

Maria Morena-Church as president; Meghan Sutherland as vice-president; Kaitlin Antler as treasurer; Tara Neville as secretary; and as Directors-at-Large are John Butler, Jamie Wilson, Nicole Popkie, Dez Bair-Patel, Heather Salovaara, Brooke Fischer, Richard Deschambault and Jake Neville. 

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