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Airbnb impacts Fernie April 5, 2016

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Airbnb, VRBO, and other owner direct short-term rentals are quickly becoming the largest accommodator in Fernie and area. Airbnb alone has 80 rental options in the area. Welcoming more visitors to Fernie benefits our local economy; however, housing our visitors in this non-regulated model does come with negative local impacts. Similar problems exist in Vancouver, Revelstoke, Tofino, and many other communities.

Fernie airbnb

The availability of rental homes and housing for employees is shrinking quickly. Home owners renting under the Airbnb or like models are no longer renting long-term to permanent or seasonal residents, putting pressure on our rental inventory. The City of Fernie introduced the R1B – Single Detached Plus Residential zone with the purpose “to provide for the development of single-detached residential units with the option of developing a secondary residential dwelling unit in the form of an attached or detached residential unit” (Bylaw 1750). It was created by the City to support development of rental suites to assist with the long-term housing rental availability. As owners chose the short-term or nightly rental model over long-term rental, there is a decrease in affordable long-term housing.

City of Fernie zoning Bylaw 1750 outlines the rules for residential Bed and Breakfast operations. These rules include: a) shall be owner occupied; b) shall not provide more than three rooms for the purpose of paying guests within the home; c) one parking space must be provided on site for each room to be rented; d) employment of one additional staff allowed to assist in operations. Renting out an entire house, apartment, or suite does not meet the zoning bylaw Bed and Breakfast criteria. Further, those operating a residential bed and breakfast are required to have a business license. Currently, there is one licensed residential Bed and Breakfast, and three licensed commercial Bed and Breakfasts in the City of Fernie.

The current City zoning bylaw is a tool that can be used to manage the impacts of this model. Bed and Breakfast operations are allowed in two residential zones by the city. Home owners in those zones may purchase a business license and meet the criteria listed in the zoning bylaw to legally operate under the Airbnb model.

Our community is also losing provincial funds as more visitor choose sharing models over traditional vacation stay option. Hotels and commercial short-term rental companies collect hotel room tourist tax and GST on behalf of the province and the Federal Government. These taxes come back to our community supporting local infrastructure and providing grants for activities and events. The Airbnb model could directly reduce the amount of funds our community receives through programs like the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI). The RMI program continues to improve Fernie’s infrastructure and local activities. Some examples are the boat launch at Dogwood Park, groomed and expanded trails (both Nordic and mountain bike), and the Summer Social’s Wednesday Concert Series.

Continuing to permit this business model to proliferate unregulated and uncontrolled, our community will suffer. Residential bed and breakfast owners are encouraged to follow current legislation and purchase a municipal business license. Education and strict enforcement of current zoning bylaws will ensure that our community has housing options available to those who choose to make Fernie home. “We have seen communities approach Airbnb and the sharing economy in a variety of ways. In Banff, they are considered illegal tourist homes and the community has strong enforcement. Tofino council recently announced a crackdown on illegal suites. Quebec last year introduced regulations that include regular users get a certificate from the tourism ministry and collect a 3.5 per cent lodging tax” states Sheila Byers, Fernie Chamber of Commerce board president. She adds “locally, we need to act now to understand the impacts of the sharing economy, how it interacts with our municipal zoning, and the best way to regulate it.”

The sharing economy platform has potential to be a valuable conduit for bringing visitors to BC and bolstering the tourism industry. With the rapid change, governments will need to act quickly to manage the emerging sector. There are an estimated 10,000+ units province-wide that are not contributing to the BC tax base.

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce represents over 260 business in Fernie and the Elk Valley. Its mission is to strengthen commerce in the Fernie area and is guided by principles of membership, integrity, best-practices, business excellence, and non-partisanship. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is “The Voice of Business in Fernie.”

The Smiles Stay the Same November 12, 2015

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There is fresh snow on the mountain tops and a buzz in the air about the upcoming winter season. The seasons change but the smiles stay the same. There is anticipation that the increased visitor numbers seen through the summer continue to come in the winter season. Across the province tourism numbers have increased 7.1% over 2014 numbers.

Fernie shared in the visitor increase. The downtown visitor information center housed in the Fernie Museum helped 6700 visitors or 20% more than last year, while the highway visitor center saw numbers steady from 2014. Most visitors were coming from Alberta followed by BC residents.
Local hotels also enjoyed the increased traffic seeing a 10 to 20% increase over 2014 occupancies. It was a great summer to welcome people into Fernie. Caitlin Bates of Fernie Lodging Company noted that this year saw a lot more mid-week visitation. This came from a number of family reunions and company gatherings.

Island lake glading

Our winter services are getting ready to welcome another season of skiers, boarders, fat-tire bikers, and general outdoor enthusiasts. New this year, FAR will be offering a mobile app with snow conditions, weather reports and trail maps. Island Lake Lodge’s glading crew has worked extensively on terrain in the summer to ensure more terrain options and a better ski experience in early season.

As the snow falls there is an anticipation in the air of new opportunities and new experiences. The Chamber of Commerce this year is working with businesses to provide the best customer experience through the Fernie Ambassador program. This four-hour session is designed to build a community-wide experience and to help new-comers (and those here a little longer) know all things Fernie. “The Fernie Ambassador program is designed to elevate the guest experience by teaching all those who connect with Fernie guests customer service skills and details previously known only by locals. The Chamber is very excited about the program and is getting great support from the business community” states board president Sheila Byers.

Call the Fernie Chamber for more details about the Fernie Ambassador Program. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce represents over 260 business in Fernie and the Elk Valley. Its mission is to strengthen commerce in the Fernie area and is guided by principles of membership, integrity, bestpractices, business excellence, and non-partisanship. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is “The Voice of Business in Fernie.”

Community and Business Excellence Awards Winners October 26, 2015

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On Friday October 23, nearly 150 people filled the Clubhouse restaurant at the Fernie Golf and Country Club to celebrate the Community and Business Excellence Awards. The evening started with welcomes from MP Elect Wayne Stetski, MLA Minister Bill Bennett, Mayor Mary Giuliano and
Chamber Board President Sheila Byers.

Spa 901 tourism award

Derrick Emsely, CEO and co-founder of tentree apparel, shared his story with the crowd on being authentic and an agent for change. The Clubhouse prepared and excellent meal and the crowd was entertained by the band Wild Honey before and after the presentations.

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Community and Business Excellence Awards

Citizen of the Year – Sponsored by the City of Fernie
Rick Ganter

Mayor Giuliano with Rick Ganter

Mayor Giuliano with Rick Ganter

Volunteer of the Year – Sponsored by the Free Press
Kevin McIsaac

Spirit of Fernie – Sponsored by Best Western Plus Fernie Mountain Lodge
Emily Brydon Youth Foundation

Community Tourism Achievement – Sponsored by Tourism Fernie
Spa 901

Outstanding Customer Service – Sponsored by Fernie Alpine Resort
Healing Hollow

New Business of the Year – Sponsored by Majic, Purdy Law Corporation
The Chopstick Truck

Entrepreneur of the Year – Sponsored by Community Futures East Kootenay
Nourish Through Nature

Employee of the Year – Sponsored by EK Employment and Work BC
Deanne Milley, Evolution Health and Fitness

Employer of the Year – Sponsored by College of the Rockies
Super 8 Fernie

Fernie Business of the Year – Sponsored by Telus
Super 8 Fernie

Chamber Business Excellence – Sponsored by Fernie Chamber of Commerce
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

People’s Choice Award – Sponsored by Park Place Lodge
Three Sisters Day Spa

Chamber Legacy Award – Sponsored by Fernie Chamber of Commerce
Ingrid Sombrowski

Business Leadership Award
– Sponsored by Finning
Claris Media

The Chamber of Commerce thanks the many businesses and individuals who help organize and sponsor these awards. Including Telus, ISL Engineering, BC Hydro, Super 8 Fernie, Fernie Brewing Company, Western Financial Group, Fernie Fix, Freshies, The Bridge Bistro, White Ladder Painting, Fernie Home Hardware Building Center, Ann’s Independent Grocer, Fernie Ford, Lilac Media, 6:8 Photography and Clawhammer Press.

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce represents over 260 business in Fernie and the Elk Valley. Its mission is to strengthen commerce in the Fernie area and is guided by principles of membership, integrity, bestpractices, business excellence, and non-partisanship. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is “The Voice of Business in Fernie.”

Fernie Business Retention and Expansion October 22, 2015

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The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is spearheading a Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) survey.

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A BR+E is designed to take the pulse of the business community. Representatives from the Chamber will be interviewing local businesses in the upcoming months gathering the survey data.
The Chamber of Commerce recognizes that existing businesses are valuable economic and employment assets contributing to the vitality of our community. The survey, that takes about one and a half hours to
compete, will collect first-hand information from our businesses on their current position. “Our Chamber’s mission is to strengthen commerce in Fernie,” states board president Sheila Byers, “and
completing a Business Retention and Expansion survey is one tool we can use to understand our economic climate and the needs of our local businesses.” The survey information can be used to address
urgent problems, connect businesses with relevant support programs and services, and identify gaps where business programs and resources could be improved or created to support economic development strategies within the community.

The BR+E will be completed by accessing resources from the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute. Dr. Terri MacDonald, the Regional Innovation Chair in Rural Economic Development for Selkirk College and the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute states, “with the valuable information collected through community-driven BR+E projects, decision makers and economic development practitioners will be well positioned to provide support to our local businesses and take action to improve the overall business climate in our region.”

In the next few weeks, Fernie businesses will receive more details on how they can participate. Businesses are urged to take this opportunity to share their views and to contribute to the pool of
information about the local business community. Individual information and comments will be confidential, but the aggregated information will be of great value in understanding our current economy, planning for the future, and general promotion of business in Fernie.

This project is made possible through support from Columbia Basin Trust and the City of Fernie. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce represents over 260 business in Fernie and the Elk Valley. Its mission is to strengthen commerce in the Fernie area and is guided by principles of membership, integrity, bestpractices, business excellence, and non-partisanship. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is “The Voice of Business in Fernie.”

Community and Business Excellence Awards Finalists October 9, 2015

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The Awards committee of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce the finalists for the 2015 Community and Business Excellence Awards. This was the first year that the nominations were collected only through online nomination forms. Received were 125 submissions that included 60 different businesses, organizations, and individuals.

2015_awards_1

A volunteer judging panel has gone through the nomination applications and narrowed down each category to a list of finalists. We have a community full of fantastic business and simply trying to identify the top three or four was a challenge. We are excited to celebrate the success of these great businesses at the Awards Gala on October 23.

Community and Business Excellence Award Finalists – 2015

Spirit of Fernie – Sponsored by Best Western Plus Fernie Mountain Lodge
Elk Valley Hospice
Emily Brydon Youth Foundation
Wapiti Music Festival

Community Tourism Achievement – Sponsored by Tourism Fernie
Happy Cow Ice Cream & Desserts
Infinitea T-Bar & Boutique
Spa 901

Outstanding Customer Service – Sponsored by Fernie Alpine Resort
Elk Valley Hospice
Healing Hollow
Nevados

New Business of the Year – Sponsored by Majic, Purdy Law Corporation
DIY or DIE
Eye of the Needle/Fernie Forge
Lilac Media
The Chopstick Truck

Entrepreneur of the Year – Sponsored by Community Futures East Kootenay
Elevation Showcase
Nourish Through Nature
Three Sisters Day Spa

Employee of the Year – Sponsored by EK Employment and Work BC
Catherine Sullivan
Deanne Milley
Paul Rolph
Shayne Brideau

Employer of the Year
Canadian Tire
Heaven Boutique
Nevados
Super 8 Fernie

Fernie Business of the Year – Sponsored by Telus
Infinitea T-Bar & Boutique
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
Super 8 Fernie

Chamber Business Excellence – Sponsored by Fernie Chamber of Commerce
Fernie Brewing
Mow and Snow
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

Business Leadership Award
– Sponsored by Finning
Claris Media
Fernie Brewing
Grow Children’s Boutique
Home Hardware

Other awards to be given out at the Awards Gala include Citizen of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, and The Chamber Legacy Award. The Chamber Legacy Award recognizes a business or business personwhose efforts have accomplished extraordinary things that have benefited Fernie and area in unique and meaningful ways. It is a business that is an inspiration and role model for the community. To be considered for this award, the business or individual must have been operating for ten plus years. It is achance for the business community to recognize those businesses that have been integral to the Fernie community.

The Chamber of Commerce thanks the many businesses and individuals who help organize and sponsor these awards. Including Telus, ISL Engineering, BC Hydro, Super 8 Fernie, Fernie Brewing Company, Western Financial Group, Freshies, and the Bridge Bistro.

You can buy your tickets for the Awards Gala through the Fernie Chamber of Commerce, call 250.423.6868 or online

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce represents over 260 business in Fernie and the Elk Valley. Its mission is to strengthen commerce in the Fernie area and is guided by principles of membership, integrity, bestpractices, business excellence, and non-partisanship. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is “The Voice of Business in Fernie.”

Fernie pinched by staff shortages August 24, 2015

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Fernie businesses have been hit hard by the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program. In a recreational community like Fernie that sees over 300,000 visitors a year and has a year-round population just under 5000, businesses rely on a variety of worker programs including holiday working visas and temporary foreign workers, whether hiring under the former labour market opinion or the more recent labour market impact assessment.

temporary foreign worker

Members of the business community including the Fernie Chamber of Commerce, McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, Ann’s Independent Grocery, 7-11, A&W, Canadian Tire, Fernie Lodging Company, Park Place Lodge and The Brick House filled Council Chambers’ on Monday, August 24, 2015 at the Committee of the Whole meeting. The discussion was to update council on present labour shortage challenges facing local businesses and seek City support in finding solutions and working with other levels of government. Despite advertising nationally, most Fernie businesses in the tourism/hospitality, food and beverage, and retail industries are operating short staffed. Shortages as high as 45%, or the equivalent of 30 employees in some operations, are seen in some businesses even though continuous advertising occurs. A number of businesses spoke about bringing employees from eastern Canada out to work, but even that is difficult because they are not getting applications. Matt Brazeau of the Brick House stated that he has job postings continually on sites like Kijiji and EK employment. One job posting received 1800 views but yielded only one job applicant.

Fernie's Brick House

Fernie’s Brick House

Housing remains another challenge to filling the staff shortages. Many employees find that they must share a multi-room home with nine or ten people to afford living here. The BC Non-Profit HousingAssociations survey states “in Fernie, renter households earning less than $22,037 and living in two bedroom units pay an average of 93% of their income each month on rent plus utilities.” There was discussion from city council about businesses offering staff accommodations or creating a housing cooperative. Sheila Byers of Park Place Lodge responded that they have been advertising manager positions with accommodation available and are still not receiving applications.

The many businesses at the Committee of the Whole also explained that they are paying living wages and market rates. All businesses indicated that they are paying more than minimum wage with average wages being in the $15-17/hour range. The challenge remains finding a recruiting pool large enough to fill the shortages seen in our workforce. “It is very rare that I find a Chamber member who is not facing labour shortages. If we cannot find employees to fill these positions, businesses will have no choice but to reduce their hours of operations or services,” states Patty Vadnais executive director of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce, “if that occurs, the whole community loses.”

The business community asked Council for their support in addressing these many challenges. One effort can be directed at informing the federal government of the challenges seen in our community. Stats Canada lists the Fernie unemployment rate at 3.7%. A hope from businesses is that Fernie could qualify for an exemption to the temporary foreign worker hiring ban, similar to that received by Yellowknife.

Fernie’s Diverse Business Models need City Support July 15, 2015

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Fernie City Council heard from the business community on July 13 at the Committee of the Whole meeting. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce presented results from a survey of the local food and beverage industry. Over 30 businesses were invited to participate in a survey that was completed by 23 businesses ranging from fast food to fine dining to mobile vending. The results were presented to the City as resources for the upcoming mobile food vending bylaw and policy review that is outlined in the City’s operational plan for 2016.

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The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is working closely with the City to ensure that the business environment supports all business models in the community. A recent open discussion was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and representatives from Castlegar and Lethbridge presented on the mobile vending topic. Two key points were shared by both municipalities. First, definitions are key. Whether talking about distance or types of businesses, the guidelines need to be clear and easy to interpret. Second, all parties come on board quickly once parameters or policies are set. Since implementation in 2014, Castlegar has received zero complaints about the policy or about the location of mobile food vendors.

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce and business community is looking to City Council to add some definition and clarity to the existing Bylaw No. 2028. Schedule B, Item 4, of the bylaw reads “Mobile or Street Vendors shall be permitted only at locations whereby their product does not compete with Licenced businesses operating from fixed premise”. The current wording is ambiguous and allows for multiple interpretations of the bylaw which make it difficult for mobile businesses to understand where they can and cannot park. Fernie Chamber of Commerce Board President, Sheila Byers stated, “the business community has expressed a frustration with the lack of definition in the current bylaw. Businesses are asking what definitions are used to determine competing products. If you do determine products are in competition, there are no clear guidelines for where a mobile vendor could set up in relation to businesses offering that product.”

At the July 13 City Council meeting, Council directed staff to prepare policy recommendations on a food pod system in the public space at Station Square. Council’s discussion continued on how the infrastructure in that area could be designed to support food trucks in that area. This would include the proposed public washrooms, and more garbage receptacles. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Patty Vadnais said after the council meeting “The Chamber of Commerce looks forward to the direction set by council to support a food pod system in Station Square” adding, “this will keep the vibrancy of food trucks in the downtown core while supporting the fixed premise restaurants.”

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce represents over 265 business in Fernie and the Elk Valley. Its mission is to strengthen commerce in the Fernie area and is guided by principles of membership, integrity, best-practices, business excellence, and nonpartisanship. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is “The Voice of Business in Fernie.”

Fernie Chamber elects new board April 15, 2015

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The Fernie Chamber of Commerce recently held its Annual General Meeting at the Best Western Fernie Mountain Lodge.

Fifty guests were in attendance to review the annual report, financials, and elect board directors.

Mayor Mary Giuliano brought greetings from the city and spoke about the importance of business in our community.

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The annual report highlighted the work done by the governance and memberships committees. Outgoing board president Todd Fyfe stated, “our committees this year have been exceptionally well run. We have a fantastic structure and very clear terms of reference for each of the committees. I look forward to those committees producing more great work in 2015.”

Eight nominees ran for six open board positions. The elected members included Sheila Byers, Graeme Nunn, Paul Arcoite, Anita Palmer, Steve Preston, and Alicia Clarke. They will join Todd Fyfe, Vanessa Croome, Tristan Woods, Ryan Frazer, Geof Hare, and Tammy Ogden to create the 12-member board.

While ballots were being counted, a panel discussion was held with incoming board president Sheila Byers and new executive director Patty Vadnais.

Byers covered items in the chamber’s strategic plan focusing on financial sustainability, membership services, advocacy, and governance. Vadnais spoke about creating educational sessions and workshops for members to strengthen their businesses. Also announced was the Business Book Nook. The Fernie Chamber of Commerce will collect book recommendations from members and share them through the program partners Fernie Heritage Library and Polar Peek Books and Treasures.

Fernie Chamber of Commerce new Executive Director March 26, 2015

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The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is excited to welcome its new executive director, Patty Vadnais. Vadnais moved to Fernie from Lethbridge, AB in May 2014 and has become active in the community coaching the Elk Valley Dolphin Swim Club and joining the Ladies Golf Club. Fernie Chamber of Commerce Board President Todd Fyfe says, “We are excited about the experience and education Ms. Vadnais brings to our organization, we look forward to the direction she will give to the Chamber as the voice of business in Fernie”.

Patti Vadnais with Tristan Woods,  Chamber treasurer

Patti Vadnais with Tristan Woods, Chamber treasurer

Vadnais has a Master’s of Science in Management focusing on not-for-profit governance, ten years’ private sector management experience and five years’ not-for-profit experience. She was the executive officer of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Lethbridge Region and Board Director for Economic Development Lethbridge. She has also taught management courses at the University of Lethbridge and the College of the Rockies. Vadnais states, “I look forward to being involved in the business community and working with municipal government to create a vibrant economic environment for our local businesses to thrive”.

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce represents over 270 businesses in the Fernie and Elk Valley region. Its mission is to strengthen commerce in the Fernie area and is guided by principles of membership, integrity, best-practices and business excellence, and non-partisan approach. Businesses are welcome to join the Fernie Chamber of Commerce and participate in its advertising, advocacy, and networking events.

Contact:
Patty Vadnais
250.423.6868
office@ferniechamber.com
ferniechamber.com

2014 Fernie Community & Business Excellence Winners October 24, 2014

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The Fernie Chamber of Commerce thanks everyone that attended the 2014 Fernie Community & Business Excellence Awards and to everyone that contributed in making the night a success!

The keynote speaker at the awards was Meghji, co-host of Vancouver’s morning show breakfast television. Riaz is pictured below with his fiancé
and Fernie Mayor, Mary Giuliano.

Fernie awards

THE WINNERS ARE…

Citizen of the Year- Kathryn Robinson
Entrepreneur of the Year- Maren Esch of Barkside Pets
Retail Excellence Award- Gearhub
Outstanding Customer Service- Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
Fernie Business of the Year- Le Grand Fromage
New Business of the Year- Nevados Restaurant
Community Impact Award- Fernie Women’s Resource Centre
Community Tourism Achievement Award- Claris Media/The Fernie Fix
Volunteer of the Year Award- Cathy Smith Clark
Employee of the Year Award- Jessica Hikida of Grow

Congratulations to all nominees and winners!