The Whistler Chamber of Commerce has a new leader at the helm.
Melissa Pace was officially named as the organization's CEO on Thursday, Feb. 16. Pace had been filling in as acting CEO since December, during Danny Tuff's leave of absence. Tuff, who had just moved to the resort from Newfoundland in September, has officially resigned from the position.
"The board of directors is very excited to appoint Melissa as our new CEO. Melissa brings a robust skillset, the right experience, tons of energy and genuine passion to elevate Whistler's business and support our members. In many ways, you cannot ask for a better fit," said Whistler Chamber board chair Theresa Walterhouse in a release.
"She knows our community, our members, our purpose and has been part of the highly capable team of staff that built the strong foundation we have established over the last three years. She is perfectly poised to continue the momentum and take us the next level."
Pace joined chamber staff as member-relations manager in August 2015, after previously serving as a director on the board. She has also worked as a managing partner at Landsea Tours & Adventures, and brings "a successful track record as an entrepreneur" to the new role, according to the chamber.
In her short time as acting CEO, Pace said she learned "just how diverse the job is" as well as what "an integral role" the chamber plays in the community. She said she hopes to continue the momentum created by former CEO Val Litwin, who left to take over the B.C. Chamber of Commerce last summer.
"Being able to know, understand and take what this team has already created and launching it even higher, that's really what I'm hoping to achieve in the next year or two," she said. Looking ahead, Pace said curbing the impacts of Whistler's labour shortage remains at top of mind. The chamber released its Employee Recruitment and Retention Toolkit late last year and it's since been downloaded 120 times on the chamber's website.
"This isn't a one-shot deal and then it's going to go away, this is something that we are building into our community for the long haul," Pace said of the toolkit.
The Spirit Pass is another important consideration with the price of Vail Resorts' Epic Pass expected to drop ahead of the 2017-18 ski season. The Spirit Pass is part of the Whistler Experience customer-service training program offered through the chamber that comes with a range of benefits for participating businesses and employers. Former CEO Tuff had spoken about his hope that the price of the Epic Pass, which is set by Vail, won't undercut the cost of the Spirit Pass over fears that fewer workers would be enticed to participate in the program, a sentiment that Pace echoes. Whistler Blackcomb is expected to announce details on next year's pass pricing in the coming weeks.
For now, the future of the Spirit Pass is very much up in the air.
"The Spirit Pass has had a 30-year history here in the community, and we'd love to see that roll out, maybe with a different name brand. Who knows? We're not really sure how that's going to play out yet," said Pace.
At a broader level, Pace said the chamber would continue to push Ottawa for a relaxation on the regulations surrounding the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker Program, an issue Whistler's largest business organization has been vocal about in the past. In September, the federal government released a report that called for a streamlining of the program to give businesses quicker access to foreign workers, thanks in part to the chamber's lobbying.