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2014 was a tough year financially for the Huntsville Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce but 2015 was even worse.
The September 30, 2015 fiscal year end posted a loss of $183,340 compared to the $172,103 loss of a year earlier. Two consecutive years of losses has taken the Chamber from a positive equity position to an $183,444 Members’ deficiency.
Addressing the packed Muskoka Room in Grandview’s Lodge where the Chamber’s AGM was hosted, Chamber president Doug Campbell tried to assure members that the Chamber had turned a corner when it comes to finances. “Although it appears that the future is bleak for the Chamber, I can tell you that is simply not the case.”
Campbell attributes the bulk of the loss to the 2014 Girlfriends’ Getaway Weekend when headliner Johnny Reid failed to sell out, and to staffing costs related to other community marketing events.
Campbell said that through the Board significant changes have been made to ensure that these kinds of losses never happen again, including adopting a no-risk financial policy when staging or promoting events.
The losses of 2015 are not a surprise. I stood here last year and told you that we would see significant losses in 2015. By the AGM we knew that we would have this loss as a result of November 2014 GGW (Girlfriends’ Getaway Weekend) and staff costs related to marketing our community. What you cannot see are the significant changes we have implemented over the last year. We have changed the way in which we do business. We have made major cost cuts and we like the result we have seen so far. We are projecting a balanced budget. Events like Girlfriends’ Getaway and President’s Ball both this year were on budget or above. 2016 staffing has been reduced. Our borrowing interest rate is cut by two thirds and we have cancelled many of the unsuccessful events of the past.
Chamber president Doug Campbell
To reduce expenses, staffing numbers have dropped from nine full time and one part time at the beginning of 2015 to three full time and one part time currently.
The Chamber’s building has also been listed for sale and proceeds from the sale would go to reducing the debt. According to Chamber Executive Director Kelly Haywood, the long-term vision for the Chamber is to locate the Chamber operations on a highway corridor or thoroughfare. Haywood joked that she is always surprised when people find the downtown location and request a map. “If they found us I figure by that time they don’t need a map.”
The Chamber did post some positive numbers for the year. Over 14,000 people came through their door and 250,000 people visited them online. They have 4502 likes on their Huntsville Advertures tourism page on Facebook and almost 6000 likes for Girlfriends’ Getaway.
A shout out to Gord Bell of Beauview Cottage Resort who was the first person through the door with a $500 cheque for the Chamber in response to the Town’s stipulation of matching funds for $25,000 of their event tourism grant.
Elected to the 2016 Chamber Board of Directors are: Lori Beecroft (Habitat for Humanity), Doug Campbell (RBC Royal Bank), Danny Jackson (Deerhurst Resort), Jennifer Jerrett (Hillside Barn Event Venue), Janet Markham (Dr. Drew Markham Dentistry), and Jeff Suddaby (3 Guys and a Stove). Returning to complete the second year of their two year term are: Ginger Barkey (MBRP Inc.) and Rose Evans (Hidden Valley Resort). Chamber directors will elect their executive on Tuesday February 2, 2016.