Incoming chamber chair looks ahead to 2014

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The new chair of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce is keen on policy development, looking to break the barriers to better business practice in the region and nationally.

Paul Quantz will be officially sworn in at the chamber gala on Feb. 1 but the St. Albert lawyer is already preparing for a busy year ahead. One major focus for the local chamber this year will be increasing the organization’s input into local and regional policy matters and help the region grow more competitively, he said.

“We do have an active policy pillar as part of our chamber that’s developing policies that not just affect our own area but provincial and even national issues related to business,” he said. “It’s one of those things I do have a personal interest in and we’ll push hard in those areas.”

In 2013 the St. Albert chamber created a policy related to pandemic readiness of business and government, said Quantz. The policy that ensures a community keeps running in case of an outbreak will be renewed this year.

As for other policies the chamber is looking into, Quantz said it’s still premature to announce anything. He stressed that it is important for chambers to study policies, as they are instrumental to influencing the decisions of governments to the benefit of businesses across Canada.

“We’ve done our brainstorming, we’ve got our research assistant looking at the various background things and then I think in probably another month or so we’ll be able to say what policies we’ll be putting forward,” he said.

Villeneuve Airport

The chamber will continue to work with Edmonton International Airport authorities to expand Villeneuve Airport. Having a general aviation airport in the region opens up opportunities for new businesses, and for the region to become a transportation hub to the North, he said.

“The North of course is very much in development mode and transportation and the ability to get crews in and out of the North – the supply of goods and services – dictate that you do need to have good access to air transportation and a good facility,” he said.

Villeneuve Airport recently underwent a major restructuring with the installation of a new instrument landing system and one of its runways now extended to 5,000 feet, accommodating larger airplanes and jets.

The chamber hopes the runway will eventually be extended by another 1,000 feet, to allow for even larger aircraft carriers to land and take off, he said. There’s also potential for a business park, which could draw new light-industrial businesses to the area and to St. Albert, hence benefitting local taxpayers, he said.

Involvement with local developments

The chamber continues to see itself as a first-stop place for businesses interested in moving to the community and is ecstatic about the developments coming to St. Albert in 2014, said Quantz.

The group is also gratified by the increased role that economic development has played in the local government, he said, and the chamber looks to continue working with the city’s economic development team to attract new businesses to the community.

Asked whether the chamber and the city had to overcome some differences in past months – most notably with a recent discussion about allowing tourism services back into the chamber’s office on St. Albert Trail – Quantz said he is not aware of a strained relationship between the two.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of who gets the credit for what,” he said. “I think if we can get beyond the fact that somebody needs to get credit for attracting a business we can work better in partnership.”

Once he takes on his new role, Quantz said he expects to appear before council at least once a month to update city staff and council on business-related issues. That will include keeping the parking issue in the Perron District on the front burner, he said. The area continues to suffer from a lack of parking spaces, which affects its attractiveness to shoppers, he said.

“Because businesses can’t vote during municipal elections we have to do a good job at advocacy with our governments so we are not ignored or forgotten in the decision-making process,” he said.

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