New chamber chair strives to keep machine rolling


With a new year comes a new chair for the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce. Mike Howes, owner of DKC Sparklean, will be the chair for 2010.

The chamber promotes its executive members every year on Jan. 1 so the change isn’t a surprise. And with the chamber healthy and running smoothly, all Howes has to do is not mess it up, he said.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I don’t have anything to really do in there, just take over and keep things going,” he said.

The chamber has several established programs that are healthy, such as the farmers’ market and annual spring trade show. Other newer programs are gaining momentum, like the annual healthy business challenge and M2M program, which encourages chamber members to do their shopping with other members, Howes said.

The chamber has experienced healthy growth. A few years ago it was pushing for 700 members and now has close to 750, Howes said.

“Our membership is higher than it ever has been so really the chamber’s in great shape,” he said.

When it comes to issues, the most prevalent on the chamber’s radar are the city’s consideration of smart growth principles and continued lobbying of the province for an interchange at Anthony Henday Drive and 137 Ave., Howes said.

The chamber has sent a letter to St. Albert’s city council expressing doubt about smart growth and Howes will address council at its meeting Monday evening.

The overarching goal of the chamber is to see the city continue to improve its ratio of residential to non-residential taxes toward the 80-20 split that’s been favoured for many years.

“I think we made it to 89:11 this last year, up from 91:9. If we could get to 88 or 87 we’d feel like we’re still making progress,” Howes said.

Howes started his restoration and cleaning business in 1992.

Outgoing chair Joe Becigneul said the most significant development for the chamber during the past year was strengthening its advocacy for downtown redevelopment. The chamber took over the formerly independent Downtown Business Association in late 2008. The move has gotten everybody “on the same page,” said Becigneul, who will take over as chair of the chamber’s downtown committee.

Becigneul’s greatest disappointment of 2009 was the chamber’s failed attempt to establish a junior chamber of commerce program in St. Albert. This program was a desired partnership with an Edmonton organization and would have included regular speaking engagements by business leaders at local high schools.

The chamber is still interested in pursuing this endeavour in 2010.

“We’ll check again in the spring and see what the feeling is then,” Becigneul said.


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