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New Westminster Chamber marks 130th birthday with a bash

In the early 1880s the Victoria Board of Trade had been acting like it was the voice of business in all of British Columbia.

This didn't sit well with the early entrepreneurs in New Westminster, so to protect their city's commercial interests they decided to form an organization of their own. The New Westminster Board of Trade was formally born on Feb. 22, 1883. It had 46 members including 26 merchants, six from the lumber industry, five from canning and a banker.

One hundred and thirty years later, and now called the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce, the organization is set to celebrate a milestone anniversary.

The birthday bash will be held at the Inn at the Quay on Friday with media personality Terry David Mulligan acting as master of ceremonies and Buddy Holly tribute singer Johnny Vallis as the entertainment.

"It's all about having fun," said chamber executive director Cori Lynn Germiquet. "The evening is about enjoying each other's company. It's going to be great. Just appreciating who is in the room and getting rid of the officious moments."

The board of trade formally changed to a chamber of commerce in 1960 with a membership nearing 500 when the Downtown's Golden Mile was in its glory days. These days the chamber boasts 365 members.

Germiquet says the chamber's key services are:

• Engaging with its "community partners" on economic development

• Representing the business voice on issues such as taxation, labour and transportation that will ultimately have an effect on the whole community

• Creative marketing opportunities with innovative products and services

• Staying relevant for the community while organizations face threats of downsizing, the economy and competition

The chamber's most visible activity to residents is when it acknowledges New Westminster excellence. In 2012, the chamber introduced the Platinum Awards gala, which was a combination of its previous community awards and business awards.

In November, it held the city's first economic forum. Originally it was to be an annual affair, but since the chamber could have doubled the 275 that showed up at La Perla Ballroom, the plan is to hold off on the next one until 2014 when the Anvil Centre and its convention space is completed.

Other activities planned for the anniversary year is getting together with the Surrey Board of Trade to discuss the current state of business on the river and what the opportunities are, and a trade show focusing on business succession planning in October.

A quote in the back of the chamber's 1994 annual report about the organization's role still applies nearly two decades later.

"As long as there is a difference between what New Westminster is and what New Westminster can be, there will be a need for a Chamber of Commerce."

• Tickets for the celebration on Friday, Feb. 1 cost $99 plus HST and will begin with a reception at 6 p.m. For more information on the event and the chamber go to www.newwestchamber.com.

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Community Events, September 2014

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