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Turning a business vision into reality

The Record recently had a sit-down with Cori-Lynn Germiquet, new executive director of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce. Germiquet replaced David Brennan, who retired in December after running the chamber for 10 years.

The Record recently had a sit-down with Cori-Lynn Germiquet, new executive director of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce. Germiquet replaced David Brennan, who retired in December after running the chamber for 10 years.

Answers are edited for clarity and length.

Q: Please introduce yourself.

A: My name is Cori-Lynn Germiquet. I am the executive director of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce.

Q: What is your background, educationally and professionally?

A: It is a blend of the two. I have a small business background. I studied at Douglas College and UBC. I studied floral culture and horticulture with the goal of opening my own floral operation and was able to realize that dream. . I continued studying accounting and marketing and media relations. . In 1988 we opened Flowers by Cori Lynn in Powell River, and it was immensely successful.

I know what being in a small business is all about. I know what it's like to lay in bed and have to make decisions about payroll and hydro and investing in equipment, etc. I've been there in a not-so-successful business and also been part of a very successful business.

Q: What drew you to this job?

A: I love the chamber. I was most recently in economic development on the island. You can imagine with 26 communities, seven regional districts and 52 First Nations, it was an interesting task from a coalition and collaboration perspective.

I like (the chamber's) heritage. I like its culture. I like its potential. The people, obviously, are amazing. There are all kinds of things that we can be doing differently. . From a personal perspective, my husband's family is here.

Q: What is the role of a chamber?

A: It's a front door to the community. If there is a potential investor somewhere in the global market looking to invest in our community, most of those investors will use the chamber for information.

We're here to make sure that businesses have every opportunity available to them to succeed. Those could be tangible programs like Visa or MasterCard discounts, or group insurance. From an intangible perspective, those are things like networking, education, coming together and community-building to make sure all the different stakeholders are engaged from an economic, social and environmental perspective.

We also work from an economic development perspective. How do we make sure that we are a community that's attractive to investment? How do we make sure the businesses that we have in town have everything they need to expand? It's our responsibility to put all those pieces together to make sure that we flourish.

Finally, we are the voice of business. You hear that all the time, but one of the key roles of the chamber is to advocate for business. If there is an issue in the community that's hindering any of our business or for clients served by businesses, it is our responsibility to address that and go to the different levels of government and effectively lobby them for change.

Q: What is your role?

A: I have to make sure that the organization runs in a profitable manner and a responsible manner. We're governed by a board of directors. There are 13 who are all very successful in their own businesses, and they're donating their time to make sure that the chamber and the community as a whole are successful. They are the ones who set the vision, and it is my role to implement the vision.

Q: What are your impressions of New Westminster's business community?

A: My first impression is that everyone is overwhelmingly friendly - overwhelmingly welcoming. From the very first day, all the leaders have phoned me or sent me an email or card. I've had lunch with some of them already. They're very excited, very energetic. The potential of the community is on the top of everyone's mind, and everyone is very excited as to what that is going to look like.

Q: What is one thing about chambers that the average person doesn't know but you wish they did?

A: I wish people knew that the chambers were here for them. If you're a person whose thinking about starting a small business or you're looking for advice or looking for information or you're going through a challenge or if you're looking to expand or any of those things, we're here for business. I think a lot of people don't know that. . Had I known that the chamber was there for me just to go have a conversation with, talk about some options, even connect me with people who could help get through those challenges, it would have been a great resource for me.

Q: What does 2012 hold for the chamber and its members?

A: It's a year for review and certainly looking at what we do and how we can do it better and smarter. Dave Brennan was a phenomenal administrator. I've never seen someone so organized in my life. Walking in here was a dream, . but my skills are different than David's. I'm a bit more creative, so how can I use those skills for the chamber and still maintain his legacy of excellence. . There is a strategic planning session ongoing for the next six months. We don't go through a strategic planning session in isolation. We get feedback from our members and stakeholders and media partners. It's only successful if everybody contributes to it.