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Mike Howes steps up again as chamber chair

Howes replaces Gary Westch as the 2023 chair. 
The St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce swore in their new chair Mike Howes last week. Howes is one of the few members who has served as chair twice, with his first term in 2010.

Mike Howes, the new chair for St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, is looking to help St. Alberta navigate through the post-pandemic.

Howes has been a member of the chamber for more than 20 years and previously served as the chair for the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce Board in 2010. He is a long-time resident of St. Albert and the President of Speaklean Restoration. Howes was sworn into the role on Jan. 11.

The new chair said he first got involved with the chamber for the networking opportunities. 

“It's just a fantastic organization for networking,” Howes said. “It's been really good for my business over the years.”

The reason Howes returned to the role as chair was because the COVID-19 pandemic prevented some members being qualified for the role. He explained that members have to be on the board for at least two years before being able to become an executive. 

“We were in a position where we had very few people that could even take on the executive [position] and a couple of them just couldn't for whatever reason, so somebody had to step up again.”

During his time as chair, Howes said that the chamber will be able to help with navigating St. Albert post-pandemic. He added that the city is faced with the challenges of a labour shortage.

“I know in my own business, I spend two to three hours every day just recruiting and trying to find staff. And it's very difficult,” Howes said. “St. Albert, Alberta, and Canada's biggest challenge is finding labourers and navigating through this post [COVID-19 pandemic].”

The St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce membership was affected by the pandemic. According to Howes, the chamber was at 970 members before the pandemic, around 500 members after the pandemic, and now currently around 600-700 members.

Howes noted that the pandemic “has helped us in some ways,” such as virtual meetings. 

“I think the chamber is going to be able to help a lot with those sorts of things with the technology and just leading by example. [By saying] ‘hey, it's okay to get back out and do live meetings and to be careful, to have some of these functions going forward.’”

Howes added that his favourite part of St. Albert is the people, and that the city is a “fabulous” establishment.

“The more you do and the more you get involved into the into the community, the more they're embracing.”

Howes will succeed the former chair of the board, Garry Wetsch. Wetsh has been involved with the chamber for more than three decades and served as a councillor for the St. Albert city council from 1974-77. 

Wetsch said that “in a big and small way,” the chamber was able to help people and businesses during the pandemic. 

During his time as chair, Wetsch said he learned that entrepreneurs are positive.

“They're excited about owning their own business. And in many cases, they're also they were all very family orientated. So if you search for it, there's there is positive things at the grassroots,” Wetsch said.