DIDSBURY - Chambers of commerce in the Mountain View County area are coming together on a new initiative aimed at helping local businesses increase their social media presence, say officials.
The Olds, Didsbury, Carstairs, Sundre and Cremona-Water Valley chambers of commerce are all involved in the $65,000 grant-funded project, said Helen Hafke, president of the Didsbury & District Chamber of Commerce.
“We just received the $65,000 federal grant to help onboard local businesses onto social media and websites and e-commerce platforms,” said Hafke. “As Didsbury alone we did not qualify for the grant, so all of the other chambers in Mountain View County (area) have come together and formed what we are calling the Mountain View Regional DSS, which stands for digital support squad.
“So throughout the county we’ve received enough grant money to assist 90 businesses over the next year with their social media and online platforms. We are really excited about this.”
Organizers are already in touch with Olds College, with the plan being to hire college students to work with local business owners on the project, she said.
“We are working with the college’s innovation and entrepreneur program,” she said. “We are going to be able to hire our squad from those students. These are people who are coming with the latest knowledge on what is going on.
“They will meet with the business, review what they have going on right now and give them some advice on how to improve it.”
The Didsbury & District Chamber of Commerce is spearheading the project. The plan is to start hiring the students in February, she said.
The new stand-alone provincial Chamber Market e-commerce platform will be used in the initiative, she said.
“Chamber Market was developed by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce under a shop local initiative (found at chambermarket.ca),” she said.
About 30 businesses have already expressed interest and signed up to take part in the Mountain View Regional DSS, she said.
“The response has already been incredible,” she said.
Business owners interested in getting involved can email any one of the five chambers of commerce involved, she said.
“We will put them on the list and make sure they are contacted,” she said. “They don’t have to be chamber members; we are the portal, the ones that came together to bring the service to the county.”
The chambers are planning to make a formal launch of the program this month, she said.
“We are going to have a big splurge go out that week,” she said, adding, “We were going to start it off with a chili cookout but with COVID that’s not going to happen. We’ve bumped that until April so we can be outside and be comfortable.”
Meanwhile, the Didsbury & District Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 60th year in 2022, with projects and plans in the works to mark the milestone, she said.
“We have a whole bunch of anniversary things that are going on and being organized,” she said. “As a chamber we are certainly quite excited about the upcoming year. We’ve got lots of good things happening.”
There are currently 75 members in the Didsbury chamber, with the goal in 2022 to have a minimum of 96 members by year-end.
She explained that the 96 number is particularly significant for the Didsbury chamber.
“We are (headquartered) at the Didsbury train station and everybody identifies us with the train station. There are 96 cars in a mile-long train. So we want a mile-long train,” she said.