Thursday, 13 April 2017 05:26

New chairperson feeling upbeat about year ahead for business chamber

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Members of the Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce vote on a motion during the organization’s annual general meeting at Great Plains College, March 29. Seated at the table, from left to right, are Brock Friesen (2017-18 board chair), Michel Deguire (2016-17 board chair), Clayton Wicks (CEO), and Mark Clements (treasurer). Members of the Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce vote on a motion during the organization’s annual general meeting at Great Plains College, March 29. Seated at the table, from left to right, are Brock Friesen (2017-18 board chair), Michel Deguire (2016-17 board chair), Clayton Wicks (CEO), and Mark Clements (treasurer). Matthew Liebenberg

The new chair of the Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce board of directors is feeling positive about the year ahead.

Brock Friesen, who is a co-partner at Rittinger’s Men’s Wear in downtown Swift Current, stepped into the chairperson’s seat after three years on the board.
He assumed the position at the organization’s annual general meeting, which took place in the Great Plains College boardroom, March 29.
“It’s an honour to serve as chair on this board,” he said after the meeting. “As community builders we’ve always had strong leadership, but I think that right now in our position we are the strongest we have ever been. From personal experience anyways, for the last three years we’ve come so far and so I think going forward we’re going to be looking at a great chamber and hopefully the 2017 season is going to be another great one for the chamber and the community of Swift Current.”
He noted the chamber has been more active this year than in 2016, which was a year of transition for the organization. There was already three Chamber on Tap networking events in 2017 and a successful Farmer Appreciation Night took place March 24.
“Our numbers from that event were up from the last one,” he said. “Looking forward to a few more events. So keep your ears open for that. … We’re looking at overall just being a little bit more efficient of a chamber as well catering to our membership, retaining our membership in going forward.”
According to Friesen the main challenge for the Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce is the same as for any other business chamber, namely to gain more members and to retain existing members.
“We need to keep our members engaged and we also need to engage our members,” he said. “So as long as we keep doing that efficiently. That’s not just having a phone call or an e-mail, that’s actually being present, that’s coming to your business and talking to you and also having different events too.”
He felt the economic outlook for the Swift Current area is good, despite the impact of the downturn in the oil and gas sector.
“I think that what is best for our economy or what serves us best is that we’re so diversified in Swift Current and surrounding areas,” he said. “When one guy goes down, another two pop up, and entrepreneurially, we also have a lot of young people trying to get into new businesses and doing it on their own. So I think we’ve always been able to find ways to create business when business isn’t good. Part of our job going forward is to help with that, help promote it, help build it.”
Outgoing chairperson Michel Deguire served for two years in that position. He referred to the chamber’s challenges and achievements during the past year in his report to the meeting.
It was a transition year for the organization because CEO Clayton Wicks was only appointed in that position in late October 2015. As a result, the organization did not host as many Chamber on Taps events during 2016.
One of the main changes during the past year was the hiring of a full-time employee, Mike Rogowski. He joined the chamber in October 2016 as executive assistant to the CEO.
“It has made quite a big difference,” Deguire said. “We’re able to give a lot of attention to our membership through visits and the co-ordination of making the events work.”
The chamber hosted a number of successful events during the past year. The 18th annual Swift Current Business Excellence (SCBEX) Spirit of Swift Current awards night took place in front of a sold-out crowd. The event included a new awards category to recognize a business that employs people with disabilities.
“It was sponsored by Partners in Employment and very well received by sponsors and the recipient,” he said.
The Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce hosted an all-candidates forum in the run-up to the October municipal election. Several hundred people attended the event at the Living Sky Casino Sky Centre and it was also live-streamed through the internet.
Two member businesses of the chamber received provincial recognition. Standard Motors received the Community Cornerstone Award at the 2016 Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce ABEX awards and Black Bridge Brewery was presented with the Achievement for Business Excellence Award for New Venture.
The Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce also received international recognition during the year. It was the only Canadian chamber of commerce that made the Top 10 list for membership growth and retention at the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives convention, which took place in Savannah, Georgia in August 2016.
Deguire noted the chamber will continue to work to keep members informed and engaged.
“We did a significant amount of advertising in 2016 and awareness has definitely been evident due to increasing activity of the chamber office compared to a year ago,” he said. “We’re being much more active on social media as well and we ask that all members follow us on Facebook and Twitter.”
The results from the election of board members were announced at the meeting. There were four candidates for three director positions. The meeting confirmed the re-election of Karen Richmond of Great Plains College to the board. The two new board members are Kelsey Adam of Century 21 Accord Realty and Vim Parmar of Wheatland Machine Shop.
The 2017-18 executive members are Brock Friesen of Rittinger’s Men’s Wear (chairperson), Michel Deguire of Canadian Tire (past chair), Doug Evjen of SaskTel (1st vice-chair), Carla Carlson of Nimegeers Carlson Law Firm (2nd vice chair) and Mark Clements of Innovation Credit Union (treasurer).
The other directors on the board are Lawrence Carr (Sign Here Signs & Printing); Shaun Hanna (Boston Pizza); Stacey Wiens (Matrix Solutions Inc.); Ashley Stradeski (MNP LLP), and Sharleen Thoreson (Staples Business Depot). The appointed representatives to the board are Bruce Deg (City of Swift Current) and Ken Doerksen (R.M. of Swift Current No. 137).

Read 1369 times Last modified on Tuesday, 11 April 2017 11:29
Matthew Liebenberg


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