HISTORY OF THE KACC
The Chamber originally consisted of a president, with G. Morris Caseley serving as the first president from 1961 to 1962, and a board of directors. Later in 1990, Heather Mountain was hired as the Chamber’s first Executive Director along with three Administrative Assistants, Angela Brennan, Debbie Stewart, and Janet Stewart. These new employees, along with other Chamber members and groups, worked together in order to establish a number of programs and resources to assist local business, agricultural, and fishing communities.
In fact, the Chamber was the first Chamber on the Island to introduce the new “Chamber Net”—a computer networking system provided by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which acts as a data base of pertinent information to the business industry. Heather Mountain described the role of the new staff as becoming “the voice of the community”. In addition to working with various groups on issues, the Kensington and Area Chamber of Commerce holds regular meetings on the third Thursday of the month and an annual meeting, to elect officers for the coming year, early in the new year. Originally, these meetings were held at various locations during the early years of the organization; however, early in 1971 facilities were obtained at the Kensington Town Hall. Later, on February 24, 1990, the Chamber opened its first office at the Mount Zion Lodge in Kensington. Again in 1997, the Chamber moved to a new location, this time to the Kensington Community Centre, room number 19. Currently, the Chamber’s office is located upstairs in Suite 16 of Kensington’s Town Hall.
Over the years the Kensington and Area Chamber of Commerce has been involved in a wide variety of issues and projects. Included, but not limited, in these projects and issues has been their Rails for Trails lobby efforts, the Main Street Project, lobby efforts for the improvement of library services, lobby efforts against pollution of surrounding waters, providing assistance to the Tourist Association, lobby efforts against careless use of toxic sprays, development of community schools on Prince Edward Island, coordination of Chamber Town Christmas Tree Lighting/Decorations, promotion of the Fixed Link, supporting and working for the PEI Grain Elevator, setting up a Community School, improving facilities at Cabot Park, establishing a Medical Centre, cultural development in the Kensington Area, construction and promotion of the Indian River Nature Trail, publication of a Business Directory, preparation and presentation of briefs to Government, lobbying for local High School improvement, initiation of Ken Net Internet Access, identification of potential for train station improvement, and the publication of The County Line Courier. The Chamber not only seeks out issues of relevance to the Kensington Area, but to the business community as a whole, regardless of location.
One of the initial undertakings of the Chamber was in connection with the establishment of Seabrook Farm Ltd. W.E Scheffer and John B. Fowler, representatives of Seabrook Farms, met in Charlottetown on March 13, 1961 to begin their tour of the Province. They hoped that a tour would help them to decide which area of the Province would be the best place to build their million dollar frozen food plant. The men of Seabrook Farms Ltd were looking for an area with ideal soil and weather conditions to supply their plant with potatoes and vegetables for most of the year. At this time, there was a strong indication that considerable thought was being given to a Prince County location. On March 20, 1961, another set of representatives of Seabrook Farms Ltd., this time J. Scheffer and E.H. Brothers of New Jersey, met with the newly organized Kensington Board of Trade in order to discuss the advantages of locating the frozen food plant in the Kensington area. Representatives of the community of O’Leary were also hopeful that Seabrook Farms Ltd. would choose their location for their frozen plant; however, Seabrook Farms Ltd ultimately chose the New Annan location. Seabrook Farms Ltd was officially opened on October 18, 1961. Since then, the company has changed names a number of times, and is currently known as Cavendish Farms.
The Chamber’s work on the Indian River Nature Trail also proved to be an important undertaking of the Chambers’. The Chamber sponsored the development of this nature trail and designed a five year plan for it to ensure the maximum amount of benefit for the business community and the Kensington area. In large part, the Chamber decided to support this project because of the implications it would have on the tourism industry in the Kensington area. The Chamber felt that this project had the potential to add to the town’s amenities by promoting the development of a “green tourism”, and in turn, hopefully attracting more visitors. While the Nature Trail was of benefit to the community, it was also beneficial in the sense that government, especially the Departments of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Environment and the Department of Tourism, showed greater support to the area. The establishment of the Indian River Nature Trail once again shows that the Kensington and Area Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to its members, the community, and all aspects of business.
Over the years, the tourism industry in Kensington has been at the top of the Chamber’s agenda. In fact, the Chamber has been a strong supporter of the initiatives of the tourist association and on many occasions has jointly participated in marketing campaigns. One such undertaking was the Chamber’s hard work to encourage the location and helping with the organization of a local farmers market at the station. Along with promoting local products, the Farmers Market served to draw local people to the train station property for the purpose of a meet and greet for the entire area. Furthermore, the Famers Market at the train station encouraged tourists to take a walk in the downtown area, in order to get a better feel for the community and hopefully deciding to spend some time here. This in turn promotes all businesses within the Kensington area. While the Farmer’s Market is no longer located at the train station, a number of businesses have made the station their home over the years. Currently the train station is home to a number of local businesses, including the Island Stone Pub.
One of the more prominent undertakings of the Chamber’s is in relation to the Kensington Train Station as a National Historic Site. The Chamber has made efforts to emphasize the historic significance of the train station and the opportunities available for capitalizing on this asset. One of the opportunities arising from the Train Station has had far reaching effects around the world and put the town of Kensington on the international map. In 1990, the Chamber hosted VIP’s from the Canadian World Exhibition in Japan at the train station here in Kensington. Among these VIP’s was Mayor Koichi Higashida of Ashibatsu City. This was a $34 million exhibition which had seventeen depictions of Canada; eleven of which were related to Anne of Green Gables. In fact, one of the entrances to the exhibition was a full scale replica of the Kensington station. This brought attention to Kensington from all areas of the world. In further relation to the Japanese visit, in July of 1990, the Chamber worked on developing the Kensington Train Station Dollar which was to be distributed across the Island and possibly in certain areas of Japan. At the head of this project was Chairman Carol Lyle. Once in circulation, this dollar quickly became a popular collector’s item.
In order to further promote the importance of the Historical train station and to celebrate its significance to the town of Kensington, in 2005 the Chamber commissioned the Centennial Ornament Project of the Kensington Train Station. Like the dollar project of 1990, this project involved the creation of a replica coin, featuring the train station, by Amos Pewter in Mahone Bay, which was then distributed and sold in a number of places across the Island.
The Chamber’s work on promoting the importance of the train station has also paved the way for other undertakings by the Chamber. On March 6, 1991, the business community was brought together through the Chamber of Commerce and encouraged to form an association. After this initial meeting, the Kensington Business Association was officially formed on April 4, 1991, and its territory was defined as the Old School District. The Business Association consisted of an executive and was comprised of Rick Butler as president; Ken Ramsay as vice president; Mary-Lou Profit as secretary; and Beth Ramsay as the treasurer. The Association forming was mainly in response to Heritage Canada’s recommendation regarding Kensington’s selection to the Main Street Program, which was eventually implemented in1992. This program was part of a national network of communities who had accepted the challenge of revitalizing their communities. This ranged from display window contests to making their businesses more accessible in the community. In large part the Chamber’s efforts to revitalize the community were centered on the train station. As a result of this program, the Chamber had used its resources to cooperate efforts towards the development of the area.
As well as promoting businesses in Kensington and the surrounding areas, the Chamber is also involved in a number of cultural activities important to the communities in the area. One such cultural event has been inviting the Prince County Fiddlers and Lady Slipper Step Dancers to make Kensington their new home. This well renowned group was made up largely of members from this area, and the Chamber decided that it only made sense to make Kensington their home. Furthermore, the Chamber saw great potential in utilizing the talents of this group to build on the cultural character of the community. While the community was not in possession of a suitable facility for the fiddlers and dancers to practice and perform at the time of this invitation, the Chamber worked hard to find them a suitable place and felt that the cultural agreement would be a vehicle to assist the community in meeting the needs of these groups.
Beginning in 1971, the Chamber has participated in this week-long festival by providing entertainment, sponsoring the Miss Community Gardens Pageant, organizing a booth to promote its members, and submitting a float in the annual parade. This festival is a great way to not only promote their members, but to promote the Chamber itself to the community on what their role is. It is also something fun that the Chamber and its staff can participate in.
The Kensington and Area Chamber of Commerce also provide the business community with opportunities to interact with other businesses in the community and to learn from one another through the regular business mixers that the Chamber puts on for its members. At these mixers the business owners are encouraged to interact with one another by asking each other questions and bestowing their own advice to others. Recently, the Chamber put on a social media conference for members of the Chamber in order to help promote their businesses and to bring them into the 21st century.
This small gathering of seven business members of the Chamber, which was held at the Home Place in Kensington, was led by April Innis of Tinker Media, and was designed to help the members to gain more awareness of social media by teaching them the ins-and-outs of the networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, and specific techniques to use geared toward their own business. The Chamber also provides its members with a competitively priced insurance plan for business members and their employees.
In addition to holding business mixers for their members, the Kensington Chamber also holds an annual golf tournament and acknowledges the hard work and dedication of its members at its annual Business Awards of Excellence event. The Business Awards is a way to recognize not only individual businesses and their involvement in the business community, but is also a way to recognize the hard work and efforts of the employees. Included in the awards handed out at this event are: The Small Business Award for up to ten employees, the Large Business Award for ten or more employees, the New Business of the Year Award for a business operating for less than five years, and the Employee of the Year Award. Since the first annual Business Awards of Excellence held in 2006, the Chamber has continually tried to improve its efforts in acknowledging the hard work of its members for the town of Kensington and the surrounding areas.
Written Source: The Journal Pioneer 2011