‘Record crowds’: Harbour Nights proved a spectacular July 4 celebration. *File photo by Kageaki Smith
‘Record crowds’: Harbour Nights proved a spectacular July 4 celebration. *File photo by Kageaki Smith

The Chamber of Commerce had a mixed year, said Joanne MacPhee, executive director.

Speaking at the Chamber’s Annual General Meeting at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, Ms MacPhee borrowed from Charles Dickens, calling it “the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

She told the audience: “The year began with great expectation, our new team was in place and we were focused on reversing our negative cash position.

“Given the economic downturn and the uncertainty of the previous year it was not surprising that members were cautious about re-engaging with the Chamber and it took months and a fair amount of time and perseverance to persuade many of you to recommit.

“But we were most grateful that you did, so we began our journey towards building a stronger Chamber, one which would be seen as a force to be reckoned with when lobbying Government on issues such as tax relief and other vital concessions. Also, a Chamber which would engage its members and make them proud of their association.”

She said even though the Chamber is a not-for-profit group it “must be run like the business it is, and not as a charity”.

Ms MacPhee said the best of times included when the Chamber worked “tirelessly” for the 20th anniversary of Harbour Nights and ensuring each of the divisions got the support they needed.

She added: “The worst of times came when our small team was challenged by multiple staff changes while still trying to manage Harbour Nights, and, out of the blue, and at the height of the summer season, we lost the contract for the Visitor Service Centre.

“Unsettling as the period was it served as a catalyst for real change and we came through it a much stronger team.”

Ms MacPhee said it was a disappointment that Harbour Nights was not a financial success as expected “but there were many highlights” including international sponsors JetBlue and Research in Motion.

One of Harbour Nights’ greatest successes was that the “spectacular Fourth of July celebrations also brought record crowds to Hamilton”.

She said the Annual ‘Yes’ Golf Classic raised $40,000 in “much-needed funds”. The Chamber also introduced a major medical group health plan and the formation of the new tourism division.

Ms MacPhee said 30 members were added to the Chamber in 2012.

She expects 2013 to be an “epic year” with the planned changes to Harbour Nights.