Chamber celebrates anniversary

The chamber celebrates its 125th anniversary with a gala event at the Nanaimo Port Authority on Saturday (Sept. 27).

Kim Smythe

Back in 1889 when Nanaimo’s first board of trade was chartered and shipping, railroads, mining and logging were the local kings of industry, a few influential men among a population of about 2,500 drove the board’s direction.

In 1949, when the city’s annual budget was about $400,000, the Nanaimo Board of Trade evolved into the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and membership has increased and diversified ever since.

Today’s chamber membership, about 750 or 10 per cent of Nanaimo businesses, runs a gamut of professions, from the descendants of former industrial giants, to software and robotics engineering firms and everything in between.

But some things never change.

Kim Smythe, chamber chief executive officer, referring to minutes from an early board of trade meeting finds parallels between past and present.

“In one of the documents there is reference to having a heated debate about should Nanaimo need more than four firemen?” Smythe said. “The city fathers wanted a fifth fireman and the board of trade was saying you can’t really afford that with the taxes you’re collecting and people certainly won’t put up with a tax increase.”

Nanaimo’s economic base has shifted dramatically in the past few decades. Today’s economic revenue generators include private, for-profit businesses, not-for-profit businesses, social enterprises and the the public sector. All of those components have to function together to make a continually evolving economy work, he said.

The chamber celebrates its 125th anniversary with a gala event at the Nanaimo Port Authority on Saturday (Sept. 27), featuring guest speaker Adam Kreek. The Olympic gold medalist and ocean adventurer is also a social entrepreneur who runs a biodiesel company and organic food bar.

To reserve tickets, please e-mail

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