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Chamber of Commerce cuts staff, just as local fortunes start to improve

After this week, only Rory Ring and Bob Burns will be left to run the 129-year-old institution. But two of the three layoffs are considered temporary,
15-02-24 Rory Ring
Chief Executive Officer Rory Ring. David Helwig/SooToday

By cruel irony, the latest local job layoffs are at the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce.

Three of the five people working at the 129-year-old bastion of business will be laid off on Friday.

One of the layoffs is permanent.

The other two are considered temporary, with recalls expected as the organization returns to fiscal fitness.

Starting next week, the chamber's basement offices at 369 Queen St. E. will be occupied by just two full-time staff: Chief Executive Officer Rory Ring and Bob Burns, membership and business development leader.

Founded in 1889, two years after the Canadian Pacific Railway reached here, the Sault Chamber is a non-profit funded by membership fees and special events including business awards, the Big Sport and Outdoor Show and the We Are The Soo Home and Renovation Expo.

Ring tells SooToday that events haven't been as profitable in recent years and membership is currently at 700, down 150 from better days.

"Everybody's watching their pennies," he says.

"Even though Algoma is still hiring and replacing retired workers, there's still that little bit of a cloud over us, certainly with the pending threat of tariffs on the steel industry. I think that tends to dampen the spirits of an economy."

The Chamber of Commerce depends heavily on small business: half of its members employee five people or fewer.

"NInety per cent of our membership employ less than 100 people," Ring says.

With the difficulties at the steel mill, the threat of crushing steel tariffs, high electricity costs and Ontario's minimum-wage controversy, the local chamber has been very busy with advocacy work, which doesn't pay the bills.

"It's impacted us from a revenue standpoint. We've had to hit the pause button and seek some relief to get us to our fiscal year-end," Ring said.

"We're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have a feeling that closure's getting close on Algoma, and Tenaris is back up to its levels."

The outcome of the June 7 provincial election could also affect local fortunes and confidence, Ring says.

In addition to networking and advocacy, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce offers the following benefits to members:

  • group insurance: the Chamber of Commerce group insurance plan provides access to competitive and affordable insurance protection, including income protection, extended health, vision care and dental coverage for members, staff and families
  • chamber merchant services program with First Data
  • UPS members benefit program to lower shipping costs
  • gasoline discounts: a fuel discount ($0.035 per litre) offered to companies and their employees at all Canadian Esso-branded service stations
  • chamber Advantage program: companies and employees save money on products and services from fellow chamber members

For information about chamber membership, please call 1-705-949-7152 or email


David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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