COFFEE WITH: A voice for businesses

Bill Collette spent his summers living and working at a fishing resort in his teen years.

Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Bill Collette sits on a picnic table outside his office

Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Bill Collette sits on a picnic table outside his office

If you own or run a business in the Alberni Valley, chances are you know who Bill Collette is.

Collette is the executive director of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and has been since March. The chamber is the voice of business for the Alberni Valley and Collette works to promote and support local businesses within the community.

And considering he has run a couple of his own companies, he knows what he’s doing.

Collette started working at the age of 12 for a fly-in fishing resort at Bluffy Lake in Northwest Ontario. It was an experience he enjoyed and repeated every summer.

“I lived on my own in a log cabin there since I was 12,” Collette said. “I just loved it.”

When Collette finished high school, he studied human resources development at the University of Winnipeg.

Realizing that a career in the National Hockey League was probably not in the cards—although he loved to play ice hockey—he traded the jersey and fishing pole for a shirt and tie and started his career at Western Inventory Service. He worked at the company for eight and half years and moved up the ladder to become a regional vice-president, based in Vancouver.

Collette left Western Inventory Service when his joint business with his wife Jennifer, Mad Science of B.C., took off. Mad Science was a children’s entertainment and education-through- science program employing more than 20 part-time people, based in Parksville, with a satellite office in Surrey.

After nine and half years, Collette and his wife sold their shares as they were increasingly needing to be in the Lower Mainland, but wanting to remain on the island.

He and Jennifer then opened up a Boston Pizza franchise in Parksville and after six years, sold it last year. He also did a short stint at the Alberni Valley News’ sister paper, Nanaimo News Bulletin as the circulation manager.

While Collette dismissed dreams of playing professional hockey, he didn’t completely  hang up his skates; nor the fishing pole. He still fishes and he still plays hockey, albeit old timers’ hockey. He also officiates for minor hockey.

“It’s a fun way to stay in the game,” Collette said. “I’m a pretty restless guy and I like to stay healthy.”

Collette owns a 20-foot boat and on the day of this interview, he had just gotten back from a little trip up the Alberni Inlet where he saw a mother bear and two cubs.

Collette also ran a government funded summer camp with Jennifer from 1997 to 2012 designed for mentally and/or physically challenged children between the ages of five and 18 years. They hired university students to work as camp leaders.

Collette and Jennifer have three children. Danielle is getting a Masters degree in occupational therapy at UBC, Rachelle is also in Vancouver pursuing an acting career and their youngest, Jackson is studying engineering programming at the University of Victoria.

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