Andrew Middleton takes the oath of office as the new president of the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce

Andrew Middleton takes the oath of office as the new president of the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce

Chamber welcomes new president

The Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce welcomes a new president and vice-president at AGM.

Another year has passed for the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce and a new president and vice-president have taken the helm at the association.

New directors were also nominated for the the board of the chamber at its AGM held at the Ponoka Legion Tuesday, Jan. 19, when Andrew Middleton became president and Kori Hart, vice president. Jim Hamilton is now the past-president of the chamber and he was pleased with a positive year for the group.

He said receiving the award for Chamber of the Year from Alberta Chambers of Commerce for medium sized chamber category was made possible with dedication from executive manager Les Jaster.

“It’s a huge kudo to Les for running it,” said Hamilton.

Middleton thanked chamber members for their confidence in him. “My goal as president is to continue the great work of the past few years,” said Middleton.

He feels the chamber lunches are an added benefit to members and he wants to see those continue.

“We are open to suggestions for guest speakers, seminars, projects or any way the chamber can help provide value added to your business,” said Middleton.

Financially the chamber has had a relatively positive year with a total income of $130,091. The business awards, membership dues and trade fair are the chamber’s biggest sources of income with awards earning $22,346, membership dues at $25,800 and the trade fair making $48,590.

However, expenses are up, too, at $131,398, which put the chamber at a small deficit of $1,306.

Reeve speaks on county development

Ponoka County Reeve Paul McLauchlin was the guest speaker at the luncheon and he spoke about what he feels the role of government is.

He suggests county’s role, while providing services to residents, is also to support business and business confidence. With the economic downturn, McLauchlin said this is the first time he has seen businesses looking to create payment plans to pay their taxes.

“The business environment here is friendly. A hand shake deal is a deal,” said McLauchlin.

One particular aspect he feels shows real promise for the area is the Highway 2 and Highway 53 interchange. McLauchlin feels confident this will bring benefits to the town and county of Ponoka. Collaboration is the key to making that happen, he added.

“You can amalgamate and find new services or you can be told to do so,” said McLauchlin, referring to new mandates from the provincial and federal governments regarding municipal collaboration.

He added the county has just concluded a 10-year plan and councillors and administration are working on developing a new one.

One question relating to fire services in the county was posed to McLauchlin. He said this area is one of the last in the province where communities are without a regional fire department and the county has been working on this for a few years. An area the county is seeing growth is in Gull Lake.

He suggests developments in Gull Lake will outgrow Ponoka and Rimbey in the near future. Getting fire services to that area is a focus for the county as many of the residences there are high end houses with high insurance because the closest departments are some miles away.

For now, with the decision by town council voting against a regional system, McLauchlin said the county intends to lease a space in the Town of Ponoka for the east county department.

Hamilton asked how the chamber can get more involved with farmers. McLauchlin supported the idea.

“You need to sell it in the context of agriculture,” said McLauchlin.

He suggests the chamber may want to develop a committee to deal with agriculture businesses. Advances in technology can help that.

“The Internet has changed the business of farming,” said McLauchlin.

The biggest goal for farmers is to find ways to get their product to market and the chamber might be able to support that endeavour.