ERIN – Looking to provide a voice to small businesses, a group of local business owners have launched the Erin Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber officially launched on Sept. 21 at The Busholme with over 70 business owners in attendance.
Its vision is to “provide support and promote economic success for businesses in Erin,” the website notes.
Membership is open to all businesses and professionals located within the boundaries of the Town of Erin, including the villages of Orton, Ballinafad, Hillsburgh and Erin, as well as rural areas.
Chamber chair Ann Shanahan said membership is currently sitting just below 30 people but officials expect numbers to climb following the official launch.
“It was fantastic,” she said of the turnout at the launch party.
“It was better than any of us expected, it was a really positive group of people all very excited about the chamber launching.”
The chamber is a not-for-profit organization offering benefits for members and their current and future employees.
When the town’s BIA folded in 2021, Shanahan said there was a gap left in the community.
“There seemed to be a hole in the business community and the Town of Erin reached out to a few of us asking us if they if we would like to form the chamber,” Shanahan explained.
“And very quickly, a board of directors was formed, and we started sort of the task of creating the chamber,” she added.
“The board of directors is incredible and it’s all very like-minded people that will not let this chamber fail.”
With the town anticipating future growth, Shanahan said the chamber comes at an important time.
“With the sewers coming in the next five or six years, we’re going to see commercial and industrial areas,” she added.
“And we need to make sure our business community has a voice and has opportunities to be a part of the growth and to make sure their business has a voice in that growth.”
Shanahan said the ultimate goal of the chamber is to offer support to businesses and create a central space for the business community.
“It’s creating a network of proactive business people working together,” she explained.
“We are not a service club, so to speak, where we have a meeting once a month or every week or anything like that. It’s more events, it’s more support.
“Our goal is to create a real outlet for businesses, whether it be education grants, we can help people apply for grants, venting, so to speak, collaboration, and networking is a big part of it.”
The chamber will also offer a business directory for people learning about Erin and wanting to find out what is available.
As for future plans, Shanahan said not everything is set in stone, but the board really wants to be a member-driven chamber.
“Which means we need people to join in and give us their input or what they want this chamber to be,” she said, adding “so it is evolving sort of with each and every member.”
There are a few events already in the works, she noted, including an all-candidates debate and hopefully plans for Small Businesses Week.
The chamber’s candidates event will be presented on Oct. 4 from 6:30 to 9:30pm at the Erin Legion.
This year, the chamber will be hosting the Window Wonderland, formerly run by the BIA, and is also looking to host a Christmas function for members.
January will likely mark the chamber’s first mayor’s breakfast and in February it will be starting an education series.
The launch of the chamber also comes at a good time for businesses coming out of the pandemic, Shanahan noted.
“During the pandemic, the businesses really felt like they were let down,” Shanahan said.
“And we all did a big campaign in Erin to have people shop local… and luckily, we only lost a couple.”
In terms of membership, Shanahan said the chamber’s mandate is “businesses based in Erin or people who do business in Erin.
“So it’s really anyone who is involved in business in the Town of Erin,” she added. “We’re also opening it up to like-minded business people.”
For more information on the Erin Chamber of Commerce, visit www.erinchamber.ca.