CEO of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, Shaena Furlong sat down with Richmond Sentinel to highlight the past and present.
Photo courtesy Richmond Sentinel Videos
Richmond Stories: Shaena Furlong
Published 10:31 PDT, Thu March 30, 2023
President and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, Shaena Furlong, sat down with interviewer Jim Gordon and former senior reporter Hannah Scott to highlight the past year and exciting events happening this year.
Jim Gordon (JG): Hannah, what were some of the highlights that are memorable to you in 2022?
Hannah Scott (HS): I was able to attend more community events this year, one of which was the opening of the newest community garden. It contained 200 plots on the garden city lands, taking hundreds of people off the waitlist while filling a public space with something that is beautiful to look at.
A couple months later, I was able to attend a special event that focused on seniors telling their stories. The community arts council of Richmond held an exhibition called The faces of Richmond, where seniors were interviewed and (had) their portraits painted by local artists. It was a touching experience to see people who have lived in Richmond for decades share about their experiences living here. The city also opened a brand-new animal shelter that held enough space for 17 dogs, 40 cats, and a few smaller animals like rabbits.
JG: Shaena, as president and CEO of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, you manage the operations plus over 60 events and advocate for small businesses. What stood out for you in the past year?
Shaena Furlong (SF): 2022 felt like a return to business. A lot of support that we had during COVID was slowly phased out and we saw a revitalization in the economy. At the Richmond Chamber of Commerce in quarter 1 2022, Omicron meant we couldn’t host any in-person events so annual favourites were put on hold.
Coming out of quarter 1, we saw a more open environment and we hosted a business after five event at Versante hotel for members only. We had almost 100 attendees, people were in masks, some comfortably not wearing masks, it was a great celebration. In many ways, it felt like a return to normalcy and businesses had more certainty for planning their future.
JG: How have businesses who needed to change during the pandemic, changed for the better?
HS: I found that visual artists and writers were able to spend more time on their craft while actors said initially it was very challenging.
SF: We’ve seen a lot of good innovations continue, like hybrid work and flexibility from employers, access to work, those things are here to stay. At the chamber, we ramped up our webinar programming in 2020, and that continues to be a way that people like to receive education.
JG: As things progress in 2023, are businesses requiring staff to return to the office or has productivity stayed strong enough that staff can work from home or adapt to a hybrid work schedule?
SF: It depends on the nature of (their) work. There are positions where it is more productive to be in the office to collaborate with colleagues. I think every business needs to make that decision on their own. I do know some businesses are struggling to get workers back into the office. I hope some level of flexibility will stay in workplaces so that productivity does not suffer. At the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, we’ve found being able to walk into each other’s office to ask a question or to have a quick meeting is energizing and works for us.
JG: Hannah, how challenging was it to collect information for the paper, when you can’t converse with the person in the office?
HS: I found the people I interviewed were happier to chat at an unusual time of the day. It was nice to see people (on Zoom) in their personal space, in their home with their art in the background.
JG: What are you looking forward to, going into the new year?
HS: I am hoping more city events are going to return. (Last year) with the introduction of new variants some events that were scheduled to take place couldn’t happen like the Cherry Blossom Festival. I’m also hoping the Steveston Salmon Festival will return in full force, with a parade and fireworks, because that’s a beloved family event.
SF: The CARHA Hockey tournament is (something) that I am looking forward to this year. Events like that bring so much revenue into the City of Richmond. Also, we finally hosted our Lunar New Year event, it was great to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit in a room of about 300 people.
At the chamber, we’re focused on sustainability events, as well as events around women in leadership. From a business point of view, I hope we’ll see a decline in the inflation rate and (with regard to that), we will continue to host events with chief economists so the community can be kept updated.
JG: Do you have any last words worth mentioning about this past year?
HS: It was nice to see the community come together and learn from this (experience).
SF: The Richmond Chamber of Commerce has a vision to make Richmond the place to start a business and we want to work on that by promoting community events that encourage entrepreneurship among people who aren’t entrepreneurs or wouldn’t be on that path.
For the full video interview visit www.richmondsentinel.ca/videos