VICTORIA -- The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce has selected a new CEO as B.C. prepares to reopen parts of its economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bruce Williams, the interim CEO of the South Island Prosperity Partnership, co-owner of Spark Strategic Group and former news anchor with CTV News Vancouver Island, has been chosen to help direct the chamber’s efforts in kick-starting local businesses again.

“Bruce has proven himself as a highly capable leader in Greater Victoria,” said John Wilson, chair of the chamber’s board of directors, in a statement.

“We’re delighted he’s agreed to take the helm at the chamber as we work to restart our economy after a very challenging time.”

The chamber’s current CEO, Catherine Holt, is stepping down from the position after announcing her departure in January.

“Of course, at that time we had no inkling we would soon be facing unprecedented economic turmoil caused by a global pandemic,” said Holt Monday.

“Fortunately for the chamber, we have been able to build a small but mighty team that has proven it can rise to the occasion. With Bruce’s exceptional skills as a communicator, I can’t think of a better organization to help Greater Victoria get through this challenge.”

Since provincial health orders first began shuttering some business in the region, the chamber has been working with the City of Victoria and the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) on ways to assist local businesses.

At the beginning of April, the chamber and the DVBA called on the provincial government to issue grants to local business owners to help cover expenses like rent and utilities during the health crisis.

On April 24, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a Canada-wide rent assistance program that would lower rent by up to 75 per cent for eligible small businesses.

"The fact that [business owners] know they can look forward to this – they don't have it in hand, but they can look forward to a substantial subsidy – is a life-support system for small business to continue," said Holt at the time.

As he steps into his new role, starting on June 15, Williams says that he and the chamber will continue to work with local businesses of all sizes in the region to address challenges that have arisen due to COVID-19.

“Recognizing the current state of our economy due to the COVID-19 crisis, I feel the chamber can remain strong and resilient as we work with and support small, medium and large businesses,” he said.

“Greater Victoria has always been a strong, healthy, sustainable and inclusive community and I’m proud to be assuming this role to engage us all with our new economy.”