INNISFAIL – The Innisfail & District Chamber of Commerce wants $5,000 from the town to hire a consultant to help create a strategic plan.
But council wants to know more about the organization's request.
And mayor Jean Barclay says it could be setting a potential troubling precedent.
“I guess my question would be that doing a strategic plan for an external organization, are we opening up a pathway for other organizations who are required to request the same thing? We have so many non-profits in this community,” said Barclay, in her response to the chamber request which was tabled at council’s regular meeting on May 23. “Are others going to come to us and want us to provide the same kind of funding for a strat plan.”
Coun. Janice Wing, council’s current representative to the chamber board, countered by saying the idea to hire consultant Eric Burton of Factor5 Group came up because of the work that's been done with the Power of Place initiative for the town’s community economic development strategy.
“I think the chamber board felt that it was just a logical progression to that Power of Place,” Wing told council. “I certainly understand and agree it may result in other conversations but I think given the parallel path the town and the chamber are focusing on relative to Power of Place that's where the request came from, and I would support that request.”
The chamber’s request came through a report from Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer, who presented a recommended motion for council to approve $5,000 of funding from the town’s 2023 Economic Development Budget to help the Chamber develop a strategic plan.
In Becker’s CAO report to council on March 13, which was included in the May 23 agenda package, he said administration was told Factor5’s Burton was available to support the development of a chamber strategic plan at a budget cost of about $10,000.
In both of Becker’s reports it was also noted the chamber also wanted to repair the current town-owned chamber office.
The chamber also requested support for its search for grants and provide funding to research and develop grant proposals.
As well, the chamber is also asking the town to review the new electronic sign business case once it is completed.
However, some councillors appeared to be confused with the monetary ask, noting the first figure considered was for $10,000, while the second request was just half that at $5,000.
Coun. Don Harrison wanted to know if the chamber had the other $5,000 to contribute.
Becker said he did not have the necessary financial information at council to answer Harrison’s question.
Barclay then suggested that it might be worthwhile to have a chamber representative come to council to provide more details on its request.
“My perception is that the working relationship between the chamber and the town is unique amongst the town's relationships in the community,” said Coun. Dale Dunham. “But I personally would feel much more comfortable having a little bit more information and an opportunity to ask a few more questions before going forward with this.”
Council then unanimously approved a motion to invite a chamber member to its next meeting or whenever is convenient.