Looking at the sold-out and well-dressed crowd at the chamber of commerce awards, it was hard to imagine that many had been put through the “economic-ringer.”
But Tom Pallan knows all too well what they have been through the last five years: a sluggish economy, lower sales, rising costs, a shortage of skilled labour and tight finances.
In spite of this, Pallan knew he was looking out at business survivors and entrepreneurs who know what it takes to survive through the lean years.
“You are all to be applauded for your hard work, ingenuity and resourcefulness in being able to make whatever adjustments were necessary to remain viable in such trying times,” said the president of the Pallan Group.
Saturday was a night for celebration at the Tidemark Theatre as the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce hosted its Business Awards of Distinction. And Pallan was the keynote speaker before the honours were handed out.
For more than 50 years, Pallan and his family have made Campbell River the base from which they live and work. They started out in forestry, branched into providing custom lumber, and then created a real estate arm for their many holdings in the city.
“Tommy’s been through tough times too. He knows what it’s like,” said his son Derik, earlier in the evening.
Tom Pallan wasn’t about to rehash the past on this celebratory evening. Instead he focussed on all the winners before him and the city’s climb back to better times.
“The economic climate in Campbell river is on the verge of changing for the better, much better,” he said. “Campbell River is entering a time of great opportunity and growth, and it is incumbent upon all you nominees to position yourselves so you can take advantage of the opportunities as they become a reality.”
Pallan pointed to the bustling residential and commercial developments under construction across the city. It gets even better next year when major construction begins on the new $265-million Campbell River Hospital and the nearly $1-billion BC Hydro project to replace the John Hart Generating Station.
“These projects will bring much-needed jobs and spinoff economic activity to our community,” Pallan said. “The question we have to ask is, will we be ready for the increase in economic activity?”
The chamber of commerce is already helping businesses and has created a website (majorprojects.ca) to address that very question.
The chamber too is also growing. Earlier in the evening, during a pre-award reception for VIPs at the Campbell River Art Gallery, board chair Michael Boulet said the local chamber is admired around the province for having such a high percentage of supporting businesses and for being extremely proactive in business issues.
“A lot of that credit goes to Colleen Evans, our chamber president and CEO,” said Boulet.
As for Pallan, his businesses are growing as well. The Pallan Group has created a partnership with the We Wai Kai Nation (Cape Mudge Indian Band) to develop a deep-sea port at Middlepoint, located just north of the city.
“(It) will be capable of berthing ships for worldwide shipping – a much-needed facility in Campbell River,” said Pallan, who promised to provide updates on the progress of their plans.
The Pallan Group was one of the major sponsors for the awards evening. And while the business wasn’t up for any awards this year, its long-time leader didn’t mind.
“As a past recipient of the Business Leader of the Year Awards, I know how important that was to our business and I want to thank the chamber for providing these opportunities to profile leadership,” he said. “What a great community we all have the opportunity to live and do business in.”