Frank Bucholtz/Special to Langley Advance Times
Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce has deep community roots, going back to the 1931 formation of the Langley Board of Trade.
The organization was started as the Depression was in full swing, and among the people involved was E.J. Cox, who started the Langley Advance the same year. It is one of the newspapers that merged to form the existing Advance Times, which remains an active chamber member 92 years later.
At one of its early meetings on Oct. 5, 1931, the board of trade dealt with some issues which remain topical today – transportation and work done by unlicensed contractors.
E.A. Easingwood noted that itinerant peddlers were doing work in Langley, but did not always have business licences or pay taxes locally.
In recent years, the chamber has been successful in advocating for mobile business licences.
Another hot issue at the 1931 meeting was closure of the Canadian National railway station in Fort Langley because of the Depression. Board of Trade members lobbied for it to stay open.
The chamber continues to discuss transportation issues, from advocating for bus service to Gloucester Estates Industrial Park, to obtaining details about SkyTrain coming to Langley, and advocating for improvements to Highway #1.
The organization eventually became the Langley Chamber of Commerce, and its present name came after joining forces with the Aldergrove (in 1993) and Fort Langley (later North Langley) chambers (in 2000).
Longtime manager and CEO (late) Lynn Whitehouse was a key driving force in the success of the chamber for 30 years, serving from 1986 to 2016.
More than any other individual, she made the Langley chamber well-known in provincial and national circles, as an active member of the B.C. and Canadian chambers.
Much has changed since 1931, and even since Whitehouse started with the chamber in 1986. Langley is now one of the fastest-growing communities in B.C.
While much of the growth has occurred in the Township, Langley City is bracing for a great deal of growth and change with the coming of SkyTrain.
Means of communication has also changed dramatically. Powerful cellphones, digital media, software programs like Zoom, and continuing changes in technology have changed the world of business dramatically.
The chamber’s current CEO Cory Redekop believes change will be ever-present going forward.
Vice-president Chris Drinovz, an employment lawyer with KSW Lawyers, is set to take over as chamber president in September.
He reflects on the chamber’s long history.
“The year 2023 is our 92nd year as a chamber of commerce, making the Langley chamber one of the longest-serving chambers in the province,” he noted.
“If you think about what Langley would have been 92 years ago, in some ways our community could not have looked different. There would have been different industries and businesses operating, and the community would have had far different population and demographics. Despite those differences, the need for a business association was still as true then as it is today,” Drinovz noted.
“A group of business owners and professionals gathered together 92 years ago and realized that by connecting with one another they were stronger together, their voice louder, and their opportunities greater. I think that is still a pretty relevant thought today.”
Asked about the role that technology will play in the chamber’s future, he said: “I think the goal is to meld the two (technology and in-person meetings) together and try for the best of both worlds. We learned during the pandemic that virtual meetings do work and technology can be leveraged to offer both convenience and flexibility for members.”
He reflected on the future, and moving ahead without the restrictions which hampered both businesses and individuals during the past three years.
“I’m excited about the future of the chamber. For the past three years, helping our members get through COVID-19 had been the primary focus. The pandemic is largely behind us now, which allows our business community to come together again, connect, collaborate, and focus on the other things that will help Langley business be more successful.
“Langley, as a community, is seeing incredible growth – and so is the chamber. In the past six months, we’ve seen some really good growth in our chamber membership as we get closer to 1,000 local businesses as members. This makes us one of the larger chambers in the province as well. I’m looking forward to us building on that growth in the months and years ahead.
“Over my term as president, I’m also looking forward to the chamber continuing to expand and develop our events offerings, creating more opportunities for business connections and education.”
He has enjoyed serving on the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce board and looks forward to making more connections with members.
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