The new East St. Paul Chamber of Commerce is hoping it will help fill a major void in the community.
The chamber, which will officially hold its kickoff with an event on May 12, hopes to act not just as a group promoting business interests in the region, but as an advocacy group for individuals and a supporter of local charities as well.
Chamber president Johnathan Fahr said the ball was set in motion late last year after local business owners pondered joining the Selkirk and District Chamber of Commerce, but decided against it.
"East St. Paul has its own unique issues that we thought a chamber or advocacy group would help with," Fahr said.
Among those issues is mobile signage, as signs can only be on display for a total of three months per year, Paradise Breeze Tanning and Day Spa owner Carrie Chick said.
"We’re on the highway," Chick noted. "For people to see my business, they need to see that sign. If I put something on that sign and I get a response, that’s a response I wouldn’t have gotten without it.
"It’s an inexpensive way to promote my business, and it’s a quick way to get information out."
Community Safety Net and CSN Printing owner Corey DesJarlais said several businesses in town are operated out of residences, so it can be difficult to raise awareness without a storefront on a main drag in town. Therefore, the chamber will put together a business directory.
DesJarlais also joined up in order to network with local businesses while also fundraising for community projects in East St. Paul.
"To get to know the community is a big one," DesJarlais added.
"And for the community to know each other," Chick chipped in.
Fahr said the nature of the community can make it difficult to make connections with the greater neighbourhood, something he strives to change through the chamber’s work.
"Everyone’s a commuter, for the most part, and they go home, and that’s it," Fahr said. "It’s to get that bedroom community (mentality) away."
Since the Royal Canadian Legion and the Lion’s Club are the only other major community groups in town, Fahr hopes to be a group community members can approach with issues, vowing to advocate on behalf of citizens with drainage problems, for example.
The chamber’s kickoff event will take place May 12 at the Royal Canadian Legion Henderson Highway Branch No. 215 (3600 De Vries Ave.) at 7 p.m. At the kickoff, the board will be sworn in, and the public will be invited to celebrate with beef on a bun, chicken wings, and other refreshments. The organization represents approximately 25 members, and Fahr hopes to find a few more coming out of the woodwork at public events like the kickoff.
For more on the chamber, visit www.espchamber.ca