Ex-MLA elected president of Hay River Chamber of Commerce

Shane Magee/NNSL photo These signs have been sold as part a shift in how the Hay River Chamber of Commerce brings in money to operate. The signs along Highway 2 on the way into town were sold to promote area businesses and will bring in annual revenue for the chamber.

Shane Magee/NNSL photo
These signs have been sold as part a shift in how the Hay River Chamber of Commerce brings in money to operate. The signs along Highway 2 on the way into town were sold to promote area businesses and will bring in annual revenue for the chamber.

Jane Groenewegen was acclaimed president of the Hay River Chamber of Commerce, returning to a role she held prior to representing the community as MLA.

Groenewegen was nominated by outgoing president Joe Melanson at the business group’s annual general meeting Feb. 10 at the Caribou Centre.

“This is full circle for me,” she said at the meeting, saying that before being elected in 1995 as MLA for Hay River South, she had a leadership role at the chamber. She had sought re-election to a sixth term in office during the Nov. 23 territorial general election but lost to Wally Schumann.

Groenewegen and her husband Richard own Greenway Realty and the Driftwood Diner. As MLA, she said she missed being as connected to businesses in the community.

She said the community has vibrant, thriving businesses that will work to build consensus at the chamber.

Melanson, before nominating Groenewegen, said he wouldn’t be seeking a second consecutive year as chamber leader because of ongoing power franchise agreement discussions with the Town of Hay River.

Melanson works for Northland Utilities. The town is deciding whether to award the rights to distribute power in the community to another utility.

“I think it’s best for the chamber, and I think it’s best for my business that I not be president,” he said.
Groenewegen is taking over as the chamber, which represents and lobbies for businesses in the town, continues a shift in the way it gathers money to carry out its operation.

The 19 people attending the lunchtime meeting were told the chamber had largely relied on fundraising events.

The past year saw a shift toward projects that would bring in regular revenue, said Janet-Marie Fizer, who served as president prior to Melanson, as she highlighted the finances of the organization.

The books showed losses, which Fizer said was largely a timing issue – the money wasn’t yet in place before the end of the year.

The year-end financials showed a loss of about $34,000 on projects – things like events the chamber holds or a joint marketing plan with the town still in the works.

“We’re not sitting in the negative, we’re in the positive,” Melanson said about the chamber’s current fiscal position.

One of the projects aimed to bring in money is the installation of sign posts along the side of Highway 2 coming into town.

The signs on the posts have been rented out to businesses or organizations and are expected to contribute about $16,000 in revenue per year, Fizer said.

Melanson, the former president, said in his report that 30 sign spaces had been sold so far and 17 requests had already come in for more spaces.

“We have an overwhelming number of members that want signs,” he said.

The next big chamber event will be its annual awards gala set for March 11.

Groenewegen wasn’t the only former MLA now on the chamber’s board. Robert Bouchard, who sought but failed to get re-elected last fall in Hay River North, will be a director. The remainder of the board includes Sherry DaRosa as first vice-president, Allison Steed as secretary, and Tim Hinz, Kelly Schofield, Kevin Wallington, Heather Coakwell and Joe Melanson as directors.

The second vice-president and treasurer positions were not filled.

— Shane Magee