Meeting needs for Nelson’s businesses

Tom Thomson wholeheartedly embraces his role of advocate and supporter of Nelson’s business community

Tom Thomson , executive director of the Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce, appreciates the upgrades  to the chamber's new home in the former CP Rail station.

Tom Thomson, executive director of the Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce, is pleased that the chamber doubled the number of Business Excellence Awards presented in 2018. — Photo courtesy Tom Thomson

Like many communities in the Kootenay region, Nelson is experiencing a shortage of housing, and the Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce is advocating for progressive solutions to that shortage. To encourage the construction of rental housing, the chamber is supporting the option of offering builders permissive tax exemptions.

“A few hundred new rental units in Nelson, over the next three to four years, would be very nice,” said Tom Thomson, executive director of the chamber. “Developers aren’t that keen on building rental units because it takes much longer to get their investment back.”

It’s been 11 years since Thomson signed his initial six-month contract with the chamber, and he continues to wholeheartedly embrace the role of advocate and supporter of Nelson’s business community.

The mechanism of advocacy

“Through our Economic Development Partnership,” Thomson said, “we learn what the issues are for local businesses, and we work our advocacy efforts locally, provincially or federally, depending on where the most impact will be. Sometimes we need advocacy at all three levels of government, and that’s where the B.C. Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce come into the picture. We are a strong voice for business and a strong advocate for business-friendly policies.”

Along with the chamber, the Nelson & Area Economic Development Partnership includes Community Futures, the City of Nelson and electoral areas E and F. That partnership focuses on business retention and expansion, with special emphasis on retention. The attraction of new businesses is a bonus.

Poised for growth in Railtown

The former C.P Railway station, where the chamber of commerce now has its offices, has become an attractive addition to Nelson. Previously quite decrepit, the station building’s smart, heritage-style appearance draws people to the area and to the businesses located there.

The renovated CP Rail station now houses the Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce and is an attractive landmark in the Railtown area. — Photo courtesy Tom Thomson

The City has finished the zoning changes and public hearings for Nelson’s Railtown area, so development— in compliance with the city’s Sustainable Waterfront & Downtown Action Plan—can begin. The zoning allows for a variety of uses including residential, commercial and mixed commercial-residential.

“With the vision of Railtown being developed, we anticipate more retail business moving in along with commercial and residential occupants,” Thomson said.

Double the excellence

In a move to increase the recognition given to successful Nelson businesses, the chamber of commerce this year doubled the number of its Business Excellence Award categories.

“We felt that there were a lot of businesses that were deserving of recognition but were not included in the four categories we had previously,” Thomson said. “So we doubled that number in order to give better coverage and opportunity to all of our businesses. We’re happy to be able to recognize more businesses this year—it was overdue. We’ll see how this goes and we may change it again in the future.”

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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