The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce (HHCC) is implementing a new strategic plan with a fresh team in 2022.

During the organization’s July 26 annual general meeting, president Mark Bell said the plan was an “opportunity to step back and say ‘what do we need to do differently?”

He said 2021 was a “challenging and interesting year. I’m pleased to see the work the chamber did in delivering value to members.”

The strategic plan lays out five goals for the organization, which has 270 Highlands businesses. They include: member experience, prospering and growing membership, partnering and advocating on behalf of members and pursuing governance excellence.

Bell said the chamber has acted on these priorities already. They submitted feedback on the County of Haliburton’s draft shoreline preservation bylaw, for instance.

Executive director Bob Gaudette said he was impressed by the chamber’s clear direction and plan when he took over from Amanda Conn in April 2022.

“When I started, I was a little concerned with how the pandemic would have affected the chamber. The more I dug in… I was really impressed. I think that goes to great leadership and great staff,” he said.

He pointed to the success of recent chamber initiatives such as providing rapid testing kits to partner businesses. They’ve distributed 20,000 so far.

Kirstley Dams, who joined as office administrator this summer, has helped develop new ways of showcasing Highlands’ businesses. Dams has been creating short videos that explain services and products available at local shops and posting them to the popular social network TikTok, for example.

“You want to get the most appealing information you can in a short amount of time,” she said.

“Most of the small businesses that are participating have been really good at re-sharing on their own social media pages.”

The HHCC board also voted to approve new directors for 2022: Francis Pilon, Dr. Kassie Wright, Aaron Hill, and Ryan Merritt.