Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce plans “aggressive” year


ACOC logoBy Ron Giofu


The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) is planning on being busy during 2014.

President Ray Bezaire said the ACOC is aiming to show members the value of the Chamber membership.

“We’re kind of looking at a macroeconomic profile as well as things on a smaller scale,” said Bezaire.

Bezaire said the Chamber Dollars program “had a very positive outcome before Christmas” and the ACOC is looking to possibly develop that further. Approximately $2,000 worth of Chamber Dollars were sold during the Christmas season, he reported.

“The Chamber re-launched the Chamber Dollar program just prior to Christmas and it went over very well,” Bezaire stated. “People are able to purchase Chamber Dollars in different denominations to be used for gifting just like gift certificates. People bring these to participating merchants (Chamber members) and they can be redeemed like cash. The merchant then submits back to the chamber for full re-imbursement.”

Bezaire pointed out it is a way of keeping dollars local and giving people a wide array of places to spend them rather than at just one store like most gift certificates.

“They are valid at over 185 locations in town,” said Bezaire.

The Chamber is putting the “finishing touches” on a Secret Shopper program, Bezaire added, with is new initiative being offered to members, which sees the Chamber sending “secret shoppers” into a location to see how they are treated and dealt with.

“It will give merchants a good view of how your staff is in customer service and will act as training support for employees,” said Bezaire.

The ACOC is also beginning discussions with the Downtown Business Accelerator to see about the possibility of establishing a business incubator in Amherstburg, he continued.

“A business incubator is a collection of business who work out of one location and are supported by group services until they have the ability to stand on their own two feet,” said Bezaire. “These have proven very successful in Windsor and other cities.”

The type of businesses that lend themselves to this are such things are information technology firms, consultants and businesses of that nature, Bezaire said.

The Chamber is developing a series of mentoring programs to roll out to its members as well. Bezaire pointed out these would be done in breakfast sessions and would include such topics as how to use social networking to market your business, tax tips for small businesses, estate and succession planning.

“The Chamber is planning to do some social networking nights where business people can come and meet each other in a relaxed and social environment,” he added.

The ACOC is working with the River Lights committee to expand programming and displays throughout the town, Bezaire stated.

“What has been done so far is amazing. The Chamber would like to see this expanded throughout town and act as a catalyst to get more businesses and home owners to decorate. The eventual goal is to create Amherstburg as a ‘Christmas Town’ to draw people here to visit and shop and maybe even move here.”

Although the details haven’t been finalized yet, the ACOC will be putting together a program to support the Ontario 55+ Summer Games coming to Amherstburg this August. Bezaire said the ACOC wants to see participants either stay in town or entice them to come back for a future visit.

“Our goal is to show them a really positive side to the town,” he said. “We want to entice them to spend the weekend or come back for dinner on another trip. We want them to see what we have here so they come back at another time.”

As this is an election year the chamber will be once again hosting a “Meet the Candidates night” closer to election time. Bezaire said details to follow in the fall.

The ACOC has infrastructure in place that can assist local businesses with their ideas and Bezaire said they are eager to hear those ideas.

“The Chamber is very interested in working with and supporting our members. We encourage members and future members to attend meetings and bring us your ideas,” said Bezaire.

Bezaire said the ACOC can assist with things like festival ideas to marketing campaigns but they need the business community to step forward to let them know what is needed.

On Feb. 21, the Chamber will be hosting its annual Business Excellence Awards for 2013. Each year, the Chamber selects winners from nominations provided by the public for businesses that deserve to be recognized for excellence.

“This is a great event and our businesses look forward to attending this event each year,” said Bezaire.

Bezaire added the Chamber will be hosting another golf tournament after the “great success” from this last year.

“It provided a great day of golf and socializing and networking, as well as generating some donations for local charities with all of the funds staying in our community,” said Bezaire, noting that more information will follow in the coming months on the tournament.

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