Special to The Labradorian
The list of projects the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce (LNCC) has undertaken this past year leaves no question that the group has been hard at work in the interest of the business community of Upper Lake Melville and Labrador, as well as the Atlantic and Northern regions as a whole.
Chamber President Sterling Peyton is optimistic about the year to come and the group’s ability to take on a busy schedule.
“We’ve done a pretty good job so far. The onus is on us now to demonstrate we did the right things,” he said in an interview last week.
In 2012 the Chamber, which includes a paid staff of four and volunteer board of nine, held its biggest trade show and conference in the six years since the launch of the bi-annual Northern Lights Trade Show and Conference.
The show, held in Ottawa, boasted a registration of 1200 delegates — double the turnout for the first show in 2006. The LNCC also saw the largest number of delegates at its local business and trade show — the Labrador Expo — this year.
Aside from these two major projects, the LNCC also took on some projects that were suspended in 2012 after the federal government cut funding for the Central Labrador Economic Development Board (CLEDB).
“You just can’t let things like this drop. It’s just too important to your community,” said Peyton.
These new ventures include the Greater Goose Bay Marketing Project as well as the local tourism chalet once managed by the CLEDB.
“I would think this has been the biggest year ever for the Chamber,” Peyton said. “At least the biggest since I’ve been around and I’ve been around awhile.”
Peyton says the busy year, along with an increase in membership of 15 percent, can be attributed largely to both the impending Hydro project at Muskrat Falls and the mining interest that has grown in the region.
“You can see the difference. It’s about the Muskrat Falls Project, the mining development,” he said. “I have no doubt that membership will continue to grow.”
He said the trade shows help to promote regional working relationships, especially in relation to the business that will come from the projects. He said Labrador may not have the manufacturing sector for some of the upcoming work but the closer the manufacturing stays to home, the more the entire region benefits. He says the hydro project promises big things for the local economy.
“It’s going to lead us into another big year in 2013,” Peyton said.
The new year is looking even busier for the group of business owners. Along with a running project of lunch-and-learns to help local business keep track of the newly sanctioned Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project and the ongoing Northern Links project, the Chamber is also preparing for a new Northern Lights trade show in Ontario next year.
The show, which promotes northern business and trades, is a joint venture between the Labrador North and the Baffin region chambers of commerce.
There are also preparations for the annual expo in June and the NLCC is preparing for the approaching Northern Exposure Trade Show and Conference a new trade show scheduled for January 22-24 in St. Johns.
“We still felt there was a gap,” Peyton said. ”A lot of regions and people in Newfoundland didn’t have an understanding of the opportunities in Labrador.”
The tradeshow floor sold out quickly and the chamber added space for 10 extra booths.
“The registration is from far and wide but the show is all about Labrador,” Peyton said.
He said there is incredible capacity for major projects in the region and they are working to create awareness of these opportunities.
“We’d like to take advantage of the manufacturing and industrial capacity that we have here before we go elsewhere,” Peyton said.
On top of the trade shows and new projects, the groups is also in the process of overhauling its current website. It will be replaced with something more modern and user-friendly. Peyton said he expects the new website to be up and running any day now.
The chamber is also looking at a new face for the Chamber of Commerce with an office in the up-and-coming Goose Bay town centre. They hope to move the tourism centre to the same office and have a Visitor Information and Business Service Centre.
He hopes to see a start on this in in 2013.
The biggest challenge Peyton foresees in 2013 for the chamber and local businesses will be keeping pace with upcoming development.
“As a community itself, we’ve got to get ready for what’s coming,” he said. “We’re going to see an increase in what we do and more demands on our service sector.”
When asked if the chamber plans to increase staff, Peyton was confident in the capabilities of the current term.
“If we need to grow, we’ll grow,” he said.
For more information on the group or its activities visit their current website at www.chamberlabrador.com