Muskoka To-DAILY

Bracebridge move to lay claim to ‘Muskoka Chamber of Commerce’ sparks fiery exchange with Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce

Mark Clairmont |

MUSKOKA LAKES Talk about fire and ice.

On the eve of Bracebridge’s hugely popular downtown Fire & Ice winter showcase, talks to unite all of Muskoka’s chambers of commerce under one business umbrella have exploded with the Bracebridge group going rogue.

bb chamber logo copyThe timing couldn’t be more embarrassing or worse.

A bold and “surprise” move to lay claim to representing all of Muskoka’s businesses is facing a major backlash from at least one other business organization — and a sampling of public at large — with accusations of “a power play” an “affront to local businesses” and talk about whether Bracebridge businesses will want to pay to promote events elsewhere in Muskoka.

And whether other businesses in Muskoka want to pay dues to be represented by Bracebridge-centric organization with its heart clearly in the “Heart of Muskoka.”

Norah Fountain, general manager of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, says in news release Friday that its board of directors wants the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce to reverse its surprise decision to change its name to the Muskoka Chamber of Commerce.

She says her board calls it “an affront to local businesses in diverse regions across Muskoka for one organization in one town to falsely suggest it represents all interests of Muskoka businesses.”

nu final mlccMuskoka Lakes Chamber president Matt French says a name change will inevitably lead to confusion.

“At the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce (MLCC), we were surprised to learn that the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce has decided to change its name to the Muskoka Chamber of Commerce (MCC).

The release goes on to say Muskoka chambers of commerce have spent a great deal of time this past year in thorough exploration of the potential benefits and drawbacks of amalgamating.

Fountain says the ultimate guiding factor for the Muskoka Lakes Chamber board in its considerations is always: What is best for our members, and by extension, business in Muskoka Lakes? After much consideration, we opted strongly to remain independent. There is a great deal to be gained from collaboration between the Chambers of Muskoka, however this unfortunately is not what has been presented to us. Instead, we have an unnecessary headache which will continue to sap energy, time, and ultimately money.

MLCC logoShe adds, “It is also remains to be seen if the taxpayers of Bracebridge are willing to unilaterally send their tax dollars to their local chamber of commerce that may now advocate for businesses located in other towns and townships in Muskoka.”

The MLCC wants the Bracebridge Chamber to cease and desist in using the new name, calling the move “a power play focused on growing the Bracebridge Chamber at the expense of localized business interests.”

“The Muskoka Lakes Chamber continues to be here as a strong voice and support for its members,” adds French.

The Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce website had no mention of the change on its website Saturday.

A sampling of people on the street at the Fire & Ice Festival — from across Muskoka — also found the move puzzling.

More than one, who didn’t want to be identified, said it smacks of desperation of a struggling business group, is not at all collegial and that Muskoka Tourism already appears to be doing the same thing.

So, there may be more fireworks going off in the broader business community than on Saturday night at Bracebridge Bay.

By Monday morning, the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce/Muskoka Chamber of Commerce office overlooking The Falls will be lit up with irate partners looking for answers.

Not a good way to start 2017 or any talk of a four-season district.

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Posted by on Jan 28 2017. Filed under Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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