Kim Smythe's appointment as the interim CEO of the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce most likely signals a change in the direction of the business organization.
Smythe is well-known in business circles, and should prove to be a good complement for chairman Odai Sirri. His strong background in communications will be an asset.
The interim appointment did raise a few eyebrows, which won't amount to anything if the chamber hires their new, permanent CEO from outside. Otherwise, the chamber will look peculiar, as Sirri challenged the city of Nanaimo, with Mayor John Ruttan in attendance, immediately following the city replacing outgoing city manager Al Kenning with Ted Swabey.
The chamber took the bold step to publicly object to the hiring, noting that the city missed a golden opportunity to look elsewhere for a new leader, as well as the city's failure to post the position which could have led to a country-wide talent search.
Hiring from within, and so quickly, wasn't fair to the city, nor to Swabey, who will wear the fact that he was not challenged for a job which comes with intense scrutiny. Is he the best person for the job at this time? We simply won't know.
So, when the chamber gets around to finding a permanent CEO, let's hope that an exhaustive search results in some fresh faces, and doesn't give Smythe an unfair advantage in the competition, should he decide to apply for the job on a permanent basis.
For the most part in the last several years, the chamber has been strangely silent, particularly when it comes to speaking up on behalf of its members in regards to important business issues. Who knew what the chamber's official position on the Port of Nanaimo's plans to rebuild the downtown marina? What did the chamber think about the first hotel deal in 2012 that didn't materialize which included an almost-$3-million annual subsidy for up to 50 years.
It has been noted that the chamber has become too insular, choosing to circulate information within its membership and concentrating on networking, but not letting those outside the circle know what the chamber is doing, or can do. That includes prospective members, and the chamber's membership, the main revenue stream from which operations are paid for, has huge potential for growth.
Members rightly ask in any sphere 'what have you done for me lately?' Yes, networking is important, but those events can be done, and is often more productive, when held under different umbrellas.
The true strength of an organization like the chamber is in its ability to speak up, and speak loudly and clearly on issues that pertain to its members. Those members are the ones who pay the freight for much of what goes on within the city's limits -businesses who pay for licences, and building and property owners who are taxed heavily just for the right to do business here in Nanaimo.
If the chamber is silent, then not only can the needs of its members neglected, but those that aren't members can't see what the chamber can do when it speaks on behalf of more than 700 different companies.
It doesn't matter who is on the receiving end, they must pay attention if the chamber speaks up.
Sirri has shown he has the chops and acumen to be a strong voice for business, and the chamber is fortunate to have someone of his calibre, with a background in media, at the helm.
Smythe's resume and skills should make them a solid tandem for now.
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