By Justin Seward
The Medicine Hat and District Chamber of Commerce focuses on three pillars to have strong communication with the surrounding business community.
Those three pillars are to connect, support and influence.
“We want to be the organization on a local level that will assist businesses making the connections that they need and so whether that’s building their business networks or looking at various supports and services they might need, that ties into the different supports that we offer,” said Lisa Kowalchuk, executive Chamber of Commerce director.
“ …And leveraging our buying power and ensure we can provide discounts and benefits to our members as well as their employees as well as various resources that they need. So if there are changes in regulations or changes in terms of different things that businesses need to be aware of that we’re providing them that service.”
Kowalchuk says the Chamber listens to its business community and the memberships concerns and then taking those forward in the form of solutions to government.
“We work on municipal, provincial and federal levels,” she said.
“So really taking those issues that we hear and providing solutions to government in terms of reducing those barriers.
Currently, we have over 50 resolutions, expanding the three levels of government that we work on and over the past year we actually worked on about 30 different advocacy issues on behalf of our membership.”
With the oil and gas economy experiencing a downward trend right now, the Chamber falls back on the agricultural sector to be an economic stabilizer for the region.
“So within regions where you see a strong agricultural presence, we have that continuum of economic activity,” she said.
“We have seen some of the challenges with boom bust cycle of the oil and gas economy. We’ve had a little bit of longer leg in terms of economic recovery.But there has been a focus on diversification, particularly in our southern Alberta region.”
Kowalchuk considers the Chamber to be fortunate in terms of sustainability because the city has seen a decline in 2013 onward in some businesses.
“The Chamber itself has seen steady growth in our members. I think that really comes down making sure we’re supporting our members. Often times when it’s a little more challenging, that’s when a chamber is needed most ,” she said.
First time Chamber second vice president and local rancher, Scott Lehr, says any support the agriculture community can get is great.
“We shop in Medicine Hat, buy supplies and live here as well,” said Lehr.
“The stronger the economy is as a whole in our region, the better it is for everybody. We want to see a thriving community as well.”
Lehr says he looks forward to helping the region move forward and grow.
“When you look at our board representation, one of things we really look at is to ensure we have different industries represented around the table because everybody brings that perspective and of course as a Chamber we deal with a broad range of issues that affect business across the board,” said Kowalchuk.
“When they have those perspectives they can represent that industry. Somewhat like Scott is able to take what he’s hearing at local level and bring that to a board table. The agricultural community is a large percentage of our business community here on a local level.”