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Iqaluit chamber membership drive offers benefits to local business

The Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce, resurrected in early 2017 after an inactive phase, is seeking to up its membership from 42 to 55 in 2019.

That's a far cry from the 18 members – eight of which were lifetime members – in early 2017. There are roughly 300 businesses in Iqaluit.

Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce breakfast speaker events have proven popular and president Ted Walker, left, seen here with Qulliq Energy Corp. president Bruno Pereira last year, says DeBeers Canada will be the feature guest in June to discuss what kind of support local companies might be able to provide.
Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo

Already the two-week membership drive has yielded three new members, with several pending payment of dues, said chamber president Ted Walker.

"As a long-term goal it would be very nice to have 100 per cent membership," said Walker.

"We're still developing our programming, activities and benefits we're able to offer. As things progress, hopefully we'll be able to attract more and more members."

Currently, there are a variety of reasons why people would want to join, Walker adds. One of those is the monthly chamber breakfast meetings – except in July and August – featuring speakers and topics pertinent to the local business community.

"Those seem to be really popular. A lot of our membership really enjoy a lot of the topics and the discussions that happen at those events," said Walker.

Actual dates depend on the availability of the speaker, and May's has yet to be confirmed. But Walker is excited about the June breakfast meeting.

"We'll be organizing a breakfast meeting with DeBeers, and asking them to talk to our membership about how they plan on integrating into the business community, and what kind of support the local companies might be able to provide," said Walker.

Currently, DeBeers Canada is preparing to submit its project scope for the Chidliak diamond project, 120 km from Iqaluit, to Nunavut regulators.

"The next milestones are, we're going to put the team into the field in June and re-open the main camp around the CH-6 kimberlite," said head of external and corporate affairs for DeBeers Canada Tom Ormsby.

"We're going to do a drill program on that this summer to enhance some of the knowledge that we have around the kimberlite. That drill program will probably take place July through September. Also during the summer, we're going to continue to enhance some of the collection of the environmental baseline data."

Ormsby says the company also plans on installing a wind measurement station.

"To try to understand what's the potential for wind power as a renewable energy supply," he said.

Community engagement is ongoing, for example at the Nunavut Mining Symposium earlier this month, where Ormsby explained the company's procurement process.

"That engagement will continue," he said.


Advocacy, Small Business Week, after-hours events and more

The chamber also plays an advocacy role.

"At every one of our board meetings, we have one person on our board who is dedicated to keeping up-to-date with the city, one person who's dedicated to the GN and one person who's dedicated to the feds. At every meeting we have a quick news report to the rest of the board," said Walker.

The board then discusses whether to take action, a stance, reach out or provide comments.

"We want to start making more efforts to take public stances on things as we're getting going a little bit more on certain issues," said Walker, adding one issue the chamber was involved with was the City of Iqaluit's business bylaw revamp.

Walker says the chamber plans on regular quarterly after-hours business events.

"The opposite of the breakfast for people who have young kids, or something, and can't always make it to a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting. These would be a little more casual, more of a networking event, but would feature one of our own members to give a casual introduction of themselves to the rest of the membership," he said.

The Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce Small Business Week, held for the second time last year, is planned for 2019 as well. Here, former City of Iqaluit economic development officer Gabrielle Morrill chats about funding options for new and mature businesses.
photo courtesy Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce

Small Business Week has been successful the past two years, and will continue. A Shop Local initiative will be repeated for the second time. Last year's was a bit of learning curve for the chamber, retailers and the public.

The Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce plans on holding a second Shop Local Iqaluit initiative this year.
photo courtesy Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce

"But by the end I think everyone understood what it was all about and was really well-received," said Walker.

As the chamber notes in its membership drive material: "To be an effective chamber of commerce, we need to understand the common issues that all our members experience. As such, communication with our members is the key to our success."