When it was founded in 1931, the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce was a meeting and networking place for local business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals, and to be a combined voice for local businesses.
While these are still a core role, there is much more to the local business community in 2021, said CEO Colleen Clark.
“The House has evolved in 90 years,” she said, but even in the last 10 to 15 years there have been some pretty significant changes.
The basic numbers show that the House has a big reach in Langley.
It has 940 businesses and individuals as members, including a few since the 1930s.
That’s down a bit from its pre-COVID peak of 1,100 in February 2020. The pandemic has hit local businesses hard, and some members have retired, sold their businesses or are waiting to renew their memberships when the things will go back to sort of normal, says Clark.
In addition to turning 90, the Chamber is accumulating other anniversaries. He has been giving the HD Stafford Good Citizen of the Year award for 45 years now. The Chamber’s annual golf tournament celebrates its 30th anniversary. Both events are now a bit older than some of the younger members.
There are the annual Business Excellence Awards and the monthly dinner meetings – which have recently gone virtual, thanks to the pandemic.
On the education side, there are webinars and opportunities to hear from speakers from the business community, as well as local politicians. Webinars planned for this fall include a multi-part series on developing networking skills, managing work and anxiety in an uncertain world, and building employee engagement.
The House also provides practical help in the form of group health insurance plans – very popular with small businesses, Clark said, with around 300 members using it.
There are member deals on everything from payroll solutions and office supplies to shipping, travel and gasoline discounts.
Some companies save more money through discounts and membership programs than they pay in membership fees, Clark noted.
One of the ways the Chamber has evolved since 1931 is its openness to the wider business world.
While still Langley-focused, Langley-based companies are active throughout British Columbia, Canada and internationally, seeking customers and suppliers.
This means that the Chamber has become increasingly active with the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Clark is currently Chairman of the Executive of the BC Chamber and is also an advisor to its Board of Directors.
Chambers in British Columbia and Canada are the primary vehicles for local members to advance small business issues to a national audience. Resolutions passed by the provincial and national organization may attract attention in Ottawa or Victoria – these resolutions may begin when a member expresses a concern.
This is one of the main reasons some long-time members stay in the House.
“We just see that it’s a real benefit because the House stands up for business interests,” said Jack Nicholson, CEO of Otter Co-op and former Speaker of the House.
It’s also a place where members can “share our successes and share our struggles,” he said.
The longevity of the Chamber is underscored by its readiness to issue certificates to a long list of local businesses that have been members for decades.
The Langley Advance Times was founded in the same year as the House and has been a member for 90 years, but the Otter Co-op may have been a member for that long – Clark said it was so long ago that no one no one knows where the documents might have been for their original claim, and the cooperative was founded in the House.
Other organizations with long membership records include TWU’s Spartan Track and Field Program and Henderson Funeral Home, both of which have been House members for 47 years.
Langley Langley Arts Council, BDO Canada LLP and MacCallum Law Group LLP have been members for 46 years.
At least 15 organizations and businesses have been members for 40 years or more, and 15 more have been members for 35 years or more.