Op-Ed: Summer of ’22 feels like a turning point to better times, says Chamber CEO

In his guest column for Douglas, the CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce reflects on how the business community is faring now, and what he anticipates Fall will bring.

Victoria Chamber of Commerce members at a Chamber Mixer in August, 2022
Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams poses with guests at a recent Chamber Mixer, held in August 2022. Photo supplied by the Chamber.

I was able to take a few days off in August, and it was a great time to rejuvenate, reflect on the past year and look ahead at the next few months. It is amazing how far we’ve come.

A sense of certainty has returned for many businesses with retailers and restaurants enjoying the steady stream of customers they typically expect during peak tourist season. The Coho and Clippers ferries have returned to the Inner Harbour, and hotels are once again filling with happy visitors to our destination.

After two years of not knowing if up was down or we were coming or going, life seems to have gotten back to the plan. We’re experiencing this at the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce with sold out events for the last few months. We knew people were missing the chance to connect with others in the business community, but the demand has been exceptional.

There is a sense of optimism in the future, and an eagerness to celebrate successes and embrace opportunities as they arrive.

Even rising inflation seems to have peaked and begun its expected decline back to more typical levels. This is a relief for every business planning to make investments in the coming year.

I’m also getting a sense that the turmoil is settling into something better. Old ways of thinking are being replaced by initiatives that are more inclusive and sustainable. We really are stronger together and it takes work to change outdated attitudes and embrace ideas that are different than our own. I’m part of a new national committee created to better welcome entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds.

The committee has a similar mandate to our own Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advancement (IDEA) Committee, which we created last year. It offers advice and guidance to The Chamber to help ensure Greater Victoria’s business community truly represents the diversity of our region.

Like all the best committees, it provides as much to me as I provide to it. I’m continuing to learn and grow, and the experience has me excited about many new opportunities for our economy that come with opening ourselves up to more people. From an increased workforce to global connections, I truly believe the next decade is bright for Canadians because of the diversity of our multicultural society.

We’re also taking action on reconciliation with Indigenous nations. By listening to how we can help, there is an opportunity to do better. All of us need to be accountable and respect the will of those who were here long before colonization. We have so much to learn from Indigenous ways of knowing and the more we embrace that, the better we will be at addressing many of the major issues of our times. From climate change to economic resilience, we have much to learn from First Nations.

There’s definitely a sense we’ve moved on from the storm that shook us for the past two years and, more importantly, we’re becoming more resilient. That’s a good thing.

Now, with autumn closing in, I’m looking forward to a major new initiative happening this October. The Business Hall of Fame was initially planned for last February — until Omicron forced our hand. It was supposed to be a spectacular kickoff to the start of the year and a celebration of business resilience over the decades.

Fittingly, we reset, and our tribute to barrier breakers, entrepreneurs and philanthropists who helped build our region is now set for October 5.

We’ve come a long way since last year, and much of the credit goes to the business leaders whose steady hands helped guide us through the uncertainty. This year, more than ever, we need to work together to build good business and great community for all.

Bruce Williams is CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.