Altona Chamber president optimistic for local business sector –

The President of the Altona and District Chamber of Commerce is optimistic about the local business sector.

Kal Smith offered his assessment at the organization’s recent annual meeting.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” he said. “There’s great things happening here. New businesses coming to town, new people taking over businesses, and not a lot of businesses closing up shop and leaving. This is still a great town, still very vibrant. The new industrial park north of town, I think it’s fantastic and huge to bring new businesses in again. New business brings new people. New people help a lot of businesses around town.”

He gave props to the Town of Altona, Municipality of Rhineland and SEED for their continued focus on economic development in the area.

The annual meeting was also an opportunity to update members on the past year.

While the organization’s board of directors spent the past few years laying the groundwork for a long-term plan, Smith says 2023 was the first year of executing that plan. That included more face-to-face networking and getting people together to learn more about and discuss relevant topics such as human resources, social media, marketing and economic outlooks.

‘”Our Chamber staff are out there as much as they possibly can, but we also want the businesses to get together because there’s so many times, where you don’t know what this person does…and all of a sudden you meet at this networking event and you’re kind of forced to talk to somebody and you make that connection and all of a sudden, you’re gaining dialogue,” said Smith.

“The more people you talk to, the more you’re going to learn, and the more you learn, the more you might gain in your business.”

Smith noted, these networking events also generated discussions about possible future event topics like workplace diversity and artificial intelligence.

Meantime, staffing remains one of the biggest challenges for local businesses.

Smith commended the RNIP program being administered by SEED for helping to fill current local labor shortages.

“It’s bringing in new people, bringing a diverse workforce and a great workforce so, you want to hire these people,” he noted.

However, these new residents also need a place to live, and that can also present a challenge.

“I know housing is something the Town, the Municipality as well, they always want to work on,” said Smith. “You see a lot of new developments coming up and it’s great because we’ve got more bodies here who want to work and stay in town.”

He added the new and expanded Kiddie Sunshine Center set to open this fall, and the local schools help to address childcare, and education needs as well.

2023 also marked the first full year since the Chamber and SEED came together under one roof, and Smith is pleased with what he’s seeing.

“I think having that one head person to talk to, as a business owner, is key when it comes to the startup of a business plan – how do I do a business plan? Now I need money. We can help with the grant. Okay, now I want to work my business. I want to gain my business. Well, become part of the Chamber. Networking events, come and attend them. You’ll meet new people, they’ll meet you. They’ll know what you do, and you’ll make that connection. So, certainly having that one stop to go to I think has been significant.”

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