It comes as no surprise that the number of retail businesses continues to grow alongside the boom in Cochrane's population.

What may not be as noticeable is the variety of businesses and services that have now set up shop in Cochrane.

"Our membership is certainly up," says Kelly Carson, executive director of the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce, placing it at 362. "What's really neat is the unique businesses that we have in the community that people may not be aware of."

He says Cochrane's business community extends beyond the Historic Downtown and Quarry. He expresses excitement over just how much more will be offered once the Greystone commercial sector comes on stream.

"Businesses are located in many other areas of the town. We're doing well but we could be doing better if everybody knew where to go. It doesn't happen overnight but we're certainly growing as a business community."

He says the boutiques and specialty shops are attracting people from other communities.

"I have an 82-year-old aunt who comes here every weekend to visit the shops, and she lives in Calgary. It's a good feeling when you get feedback from lots of people. I had a lady send me a note from Poland who plans to spend a month in Cochrane because she heard from a couple in Cochrane from Ukraine who told her it's a beautiful place. That means we're self-promoting, and that's good news." 

More people are also discovering, or in some cases rediscovering, Cochrane as a place to visit this summer. He's anxious to see more accommodations come onstream with the rebuilt Ramada Cochrane coming onstream next year and an announcement pending for a new hotel in Greystone.

"People were happy to be moving around again. Last year, they were still a bit tentative coming out of COVID, but 2023 was perfect for tourism here in Cochrane."

The same could be said about people once again feeling comfortable about attending community events, several of which the chamber and its members are active participants. 

"That was exemplified at Light Up, where we had a tremendous number of people downtown and the feedback from that has been tremendous."

He says four members of the chamber's board and himself were part of the new team organizing the evening and he expects there'll be further refinements next year. 

In 2022, the chamber was named the top in the province in the 200 to 450 member category. 

The launching of a comprehensive Cochrane Loves Local campaign during the pandemic played a major role in capturing the award while increasing the local chamber membership by 20 per cent. Carson says the brand, created by then chamber president Kelly Sinclair, tapped into Cochrane's deeply rooted community spirit that not all communities in the Calgary area have been able to maintain.

Making the message universal was key, but it was also an accurate reflection of the involvement of chamber members in the community. 

That will continue into 2024, says Carson, who represented the chamber at 70 events this year.

"We'll continue down that path of being involved with the community in every aspect we can," he says.

Once again it will be hosting two trade shows and before you know it they'll be promoting their huge May 4 and 5th trade show. Their first-ever fall trade show was sold out and he says they'll be focusing on drawing larger crowds this year.

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