New B.C. Chamber CEO addresses Island Regional chambers conference

NANAIMO - New Chamber CEO wants re-energize organization to better reflect B.C.’s business environment.

New B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO Val Litwin is eyeing ways to bolster membership and revenues while helping regional chambers and members respond to the province’s emerging “low carbon” economy.

Litwin, who was Whistler Chamber of Commerce president since 2013, became B.C. Chamber president and chief executive officer in September. Litwin is an entrepreneur who co-founded Bio Blow Dry Bar and is former vice president of Nurse Next Door franchise operations.

He spoke at the Island Regional Conference of Chambers in Nanaimo Tuesday where he outlined his vision to re-energize the B.C. Chamber of Commerce brand to make it more responsive to established and developing enterprises.

Litwin said the B.C. Chamber needs to appeal to a younger generation of entrepreneurs and captains of industry, use new technologies to capture better data from its 36,000 members across the province and apply that data to drive better policy decisions for infrastructure and regulations for business at provincial and federal levels.

“I think we have this legacy network around the province that’s been in place for about 70 years and we’d better tap that to make better decisions,” Litwin said.

The economy, he said, is at an exciting, but vital point in its transition from being resource extraction-based to a “low-carbon” economy of new technologies and services.

“But what a lot of people maybe don’t know and we could be doing a better of job is, some of those resource companies … are some of the folks and organizations and minds that are thinking hardest about what a sustainable future does look like. They’re investing in green technology. They’re looking at lowering their carbon footprint,” he said.

Litwin said regional chambers need to find more “niched” ways to deliver products and services to communities while relying on the B.C. Chamber to offer core value and resources. He cited an educational partnership set up between University of Victoria-based Gustavson School of Business and Whistler, which has trained about 11,000 students in customer service.

“Now for young people, they get the promise of a university education when they come to Whistler, not just a season of skiing and partying. They’ll actually leave town with a certificate from the university in their back pocket,” Litwin said.

While there are new economic opportunities emerging a major stumbling block to the growth of B.C.’s future economy will be rising home prices and dwindling availability of affordable housing.

“It will be the biggest impediment to growth … but I think we are going to probably see more and more creative solutions emerge because this is a bottleneck that will really our ability to continue to grow and be successful and be the livable place that we are and a place that we all like to stay,” Litwin said.

To learn more about the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, please visit www.bcchamber.org.

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