Change is probably the watchword for 2022 when it comes to the Humboldt and District Chamber of Commerce. Highlighted by a change of location and a change in duties, the year serves as the launch pad to a strong focus on Humboldt and area businesses. The Chamber offices are currently housed on the first floor at the west end of the Humboldt Courthouse. The move marked a shift from the east side campground location, and from all the duties that went along with it.
“This year, the Board of Directors decided, so we let that go,” explained Chamber Director Brent Fitzpatrick. “So on November 1, we moved into the former Land Titles part of the historic courthouse. It’s nearly a 110 year old building, at 108 years, which is the exact age of the Chamber of Commerce, so there is a nice symmetry to it. It’s a lovely office - there’s a lot of space.”
Without being encumbered with the campground operation, Fitzpatrick notes the Chamber recovers 6 months of operational time that can be fully devoted to Chamber members.
“It means our Board of Directors, and we’ve got a great group of people on our Board, we now get to figure out the new path. Our strategic planning starts this month and will go through to the new part of the year. That will give us the broad stroke directions from the Board that our administration will drive toward.”
Some of that future visioning will take into consideration opportunities that may be presented by the Jansen mine expansion project and other potash production expansions that are on the horizon.
“The seven billion dollars investment translates to an awful lot of money being injected into our regional marketplace. There’s a caution that the money isn’t going to land in one location. It’s going to be spread over a large area. It’s up to our Chamber to push and promote our bubble.”
While contractors have benefitted from the project’s initial development, the ripple effect on local economies has yet to be felt. That’s coming, says Fitzpatrick, once the project moves into production, and the focus needs to target future development for business, housing, services, along with other facets.
“Housing is our region’s Achilles Heel,” Fitzpatrick says. “In 2022, we worked with a couple developers in our region to identify potential spots for this.”
While activity has been taking shape in places like Humboldt and Lanigan, Fitzpatrick’s assessment is that more development will certainly be necessary to meet demand. Demand for new housing will prompt a shift of retirees moving from farms and area homes to retirement housing. That demand will need to be met, he notes.
“It’s an economic opportunity that we’ve never seen before. The next couple of year’s trades are going to go crazy - they’re already busy - but it’s going to get worse. Real estate is probably going to go vertical.”
It’s these preparations where Fitzpatrick sees the Chamber supporting its businesses.
Fitzpatrick also oversees the Humboldt Downtown Business Improvement District, and 2022 saw positive development on that front.
“2022 was another great year. The Moonlight Madness was absolutely beautiful, such a fun event. We did it on the Museum steps with the choir from St. Dominic School back again. We also brought in A-List Dance and Acrobatics and had the kids “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” singing with Yanna. “All you saw was smiles.”
The BID Bucks promotion, which gives savings for downtown businesses, went far beyond last year, said Fitzpatrick.
He thanks the local businesses “just for hanging in there” following the pandemic restrictions. The area was fortunate not to have lost any businesses directly to COVID closures.
“That speaks to the support we’ve given to our local people. You’ve banked on local businesses to support your and your kids’ activities. This is all you have to do is support them now - support them all year long.”