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Typically I write this column about the issue’s main cover story, Innovation: Is Halifax truly Canada’s “smart city”, however given recent economic turmoil in the world markets, I felt it would be more fitting to talk about the secondary story topic, Riding out the Storm, and what the Chamber has planned.

For the last year or so Chamber staff and volunteers have been talking about how help members in a period of reduced economic activity. The answer was literally written on the wall: Stronger Together.

It is becoming increasingly clear that there is an economic hurricane in the forecast and while we are very well prepared to weather the storm every organization, individual, and business, needs to implement that rainy day strategy that we all keep in the back of our filling cabinets. The Chamber has one to protect its balance sheet and its human resources but we also have one to help our members.

Our tagline Stronger Together represents the importance of speaking with one voice and that the strength of that voice came from the number of members the Chamber spoke for.  But Stronger Together also addresses the power of being part of a group, a network of organizations and individuals that are there to support you when you need support and who only ask the same from you.

The importance of that reciprocal relationship, of buying from fellow members and thus selling to fellow members, is the cornerstone of our network. While we have always encouraged and facilitated member to member commerce the Chamber feels that it will be by placing a real emphasis on it in the coming year that will help all of us who may be feeling the storm.

The Chamber has a variety of avenues for our members to reach each other and each other’s products and services. From the 2009 Membership Directory that you will be receiving shortly, to the Member2Member Marketplace, our online location for Member2Member discounts, to networking at the Chamber’s over 100 events, the Chamber is making every effort to encourage our members to support other members and member organizations.

By no means is the Chamber retreating from our work to develop the Halifax economy and business environment. Our work will go ahead as planned but we cannot ignore today’s reality and immediate challenges. The work we have done to reduce the debt, balance budgets, improve the local economy, and attract new business to the region will make this period of uncertainty much less severe than it could have been. We will continue to work on the issues that you have told us are important to you, such as Education, a People Strategy, and advocating for better mass transit and a unifying Halifax Transportation Authority – but right now we want to help you and your individual businesses. The way we do this is by being Stronger Together!

Appeared in Business Voice November 2008