The Boundary Chamber of Commerce’s loss is Boundary Family and Individual Services Society’s (BFISS) gain.
James Wilson will be leaving his position as executive director of the Boundary Country Regional Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 3. He will be taking over from Leda Leander in the same role at BFISS in the fall.
Wilson started with the chamber in February of 2013, taking over from Sarah Winton. Before becoming the executive director of the chamber, Wilson was a case manager at Community Futures.
Wilson graduated from Briercrest Bible College in Saskatchewan with a degree in youth psychology and later came to Grand Forks with his wife and five children.
“I started working with youth at risk,” he said. “That’s my background. I worked with different youth groups. I coordinated and facilitated a program to help youth with multiple barriers to get job skills and life skills with Community Futures. I then became as case manager for them and eventually got the job at the chamber.”
Wilson is pleased with all the development he has seen happen at the Boundary chamber since he took over.
The chamber only became an official incorporated chamber in 2012.
“We’re pretty young but we’re very strong,” he said. “We’re now united across the Boundary. We have a good partnership now with the Greenwood Board of Trade. My board is super-committed and strong. There’s great collaboration in working together in a unified way.”
Wilson said membership in the chamber is up. He also added that chambers throughout B.C. are keeping a close look on the Boundary Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re actually considered a pilot project in the chamber world,” he said. “They’re looking at how we manage and survive and work with all the communities in the regional idea. The smaller communities maybe can’t survive on their own but if we join together in the regional idea, it gives us strength and we can survive as a chamber.”
Among the other accolades the chamber has received under Wilson, the B.C. Communication Award for chambers in their class rates high.
“It shows that we’re like the MVP of that class (chambers under 200 members),” said Wilson. “It was a good ‘top of the mountain’ feel for us to be recognized for what we’ve been doing here in bringing the economic development side and helping chamber members and non-members too. We’re here to help businesses throughout the Boundary.”
Wilson is also pleased with how the chamber has reached out and brought in businesses from Christina Lake after their chamber folded.
“We’re just trying to build a presence there and get out there and see how we can help Christina Lake,” he said.
The evening business socials known as Biz After Biz are another popular chamber event. The meet and greet events move around from business to business and generally take place every month.
“They’ve gone well,” said Wilson. “They’ve been well attended. We’ve try to help especially brand new businesses we like to showcase them by running a Biz After Biz.”
In June, the chamber sponsored a business forum at gallery 2 that brought together various business owners, city councillors and staff members and others.
“It was very successful I thought,” he said. “People in business, politicians and strong leaders in our community got together and looked at a strategic plan about what’s going on in our community and what are some of the outcomes that we can do tangibly as a chamber.”
The chamber is also hosting a golf tournament on Oct. 3 at Christina Lake. Wilson said it’s going to be a great time with golf, socializing, dinner and fabulous prizes.
Wilson is also pleased with the chamber’s partnership with the city.
“We meet regularly with their staff and with council and discuss ways to continue to support this community,” he said. “We’re grateful for their support with the chamber.”
Wilson said he thinks the businesses and economy in Grand Forks is healthy and doing well.
“This is the season where business picks up,” he said. “I’ve talked to a few of the newer businesses in the community. One computer business (Neighbours) tells me they’re doing great. They’re blowing all their past margins out of the water. I know another business called and asked about how they could expand and grow. So that’s exciting to hear.”
For Wilson, the executive director position at BFISS is another step in his career.
“When you have a career and a family, you’re always looking for new opportunities, new challenges,” said Wilson.
Wilson said the opportunity for the BFISS job came about after speaking with several people who encouraged him to look into the position.
“I applied and went through the process for the benefit of my own learning,” he said. “This is my interest. I have a background in this: working with people and helping people in the community.”
Wilson said it’s a new and exciting challenge for him and an opportunity to grow his career.
“The best part is my family and I stay here in Grand Forks,” he said. “We really wanted to stay here. It’s such a great little community.”
Wilson will be training with outgoing BFISS executive director Leda Leander in August as he adjusts to the position.
“I’ll be overseeing the staff at BFISS and all the contracts and the budgets,” he said. “I’ll also be the face of the organization and get out and see what the needs of the community are on a social level and how we can meet them.”
Wilson said once he learns more about what BFISS does and the many programs, he will meet with staff and come up with a strategic plan