CORNWALL, Ontario – Greg Pietersma has hit the ground running over the past three weeks as the new Executive Director of the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce.
Less than a month into the job, Pietersma has been striving to do his due diligence to better understand where the Chamber fits into the community and what members expect of it.
“It’s going well. Cornwall is very friendly and keen to work with the Chamber…I have met a lot of fantastic people, and I think the really exciting part is the number of great young people I have met that just love this city and want to make it better,” said Pietersma.
“Young entrepreneurs put a social responsibility on things. That is different and new, and we want to make sure we are helping them with that and championing it,” he added.
Through brainstorming meetings and honest coffee chats with past Chamber members, local politicians and representatives of partner agencies, he has also gained more understanding of the needs and perspectives of seasoned and up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Pietersma plans to soon outline a list of future goals to the Board.
“One of (the Board’s) overarching goals is ensuring we are being responsive to our member’s needs,” said Pietersma.
Pietersma feels that more locals will be interested in becoming Chamber member through valuable events and program opportunities. He hopes to offer workshops that are unique to this area, covering issues that are not always prioritized.
“There’s the obvious (essential workshops) but then there’s things that may be less obvious, like dealing with the mental health of your employees and dealing with your own mental health. So those issues are not ones you may see as standard Chamber offerings and that’s where I see we can add value…I’ve been there (as a business owner), I know how it can be when you are alone and trying to solve different pressures, but we don’t talk about that. So I think there are a lot of opportunities there,” said Pietersma.
Pietersma hopes to see a range of training developed under his guidance. He also wants to place a keen eye on the personal and professional needs of entrepreneurs, like times and dates that are easiest for them to attend informative events, making it easier for everyone to be more involved. He is also looking at alternative ways of bringing people together, including incorporating webinar options into different sessions.
Always interested in hyper-local initiatives, Pietersma was elected to serve as the Dundas County Trustee on the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB), and eventually became the Chair for eight years. Pietersma upheld these political roles all while running his Chesterville-based tinsmithing businesses, The Pietersma Tinworks, which has been in operation for 30 years. When he saw his new position become available, he thought it would be a perfect opportunity for his skills and expertise.
“I had been looking for an opportunity to work local, on local issues, but something that could use the skill set of being a business owner but also my political experience and high level leadership. So when this came up it seemed like a good use of those two skill sets and it came at the right time,” he explained.
“Cornwall has its own unique challenges. It’s a city that doesn’t know how good it is; it’s a cool city. When I meet young people here (I think) it’s just a matter of time before this place blossoms. They almost have to not be afraid to be good,” said Pietersma. “I was excited to get here and I have been inspired by the people I have met. It has been a great three weeks.”