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1,000 Meetings Later – What You Told Me and How It Helped Chart a New Direction for the Chamber

May 16, 2024

Doug Griffiths in a crowd.

When I became President and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce last October my number one priority was to connect with you, the members. Not just by phone or online for a quick chat at an event, but in person for a proper sit-down conversation over a cup of coffee or a delicious lunch at my go-to Vons!

My goal: 1,000 face-to-face meetings in 200 days.

I wanted to hear from as many of you as possible to learn what you considered to be the issues that needed to be addressed by me as I settled into the job to make the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce more responsive, more effective and, when necessary, more aggressive.

As you know, we are not a homogenous group. The owner of a restaurant downtown has different issues than a restaurant on the south side who has different issues than the clothing store owner who has different issues than the CEO of a development firm or a business in an office tower.

Together we hit the 1,000 mark around day 175, give or take. To be honest I wasn’t really counting by then. I was enjoying myself too much to keep count. I met some of you one-on-one for coffee and others two-on-one or three-on-one for breakfast. If I met more than five of you at a time I didn’t count that because a meeting of that size was more of a conference than a conversation.

I heard plenty of enthusiasm about the potential to elevate our economy, our stature and our quality of life but also frustration about how to get there. The business community in all its variety needs to be better coordinated. There is a sense that at times the community lacks focus and determination when faced with a challenge. And you told me time and again we spend too much time comparing ourselves to Calgary.

I agree. As I said in an interview with Edify Magazine in my first days with the Chamber, what Canada needs is a really strong Edmonton to step up to the plate. We want Edmonton to be profitable. I certainly mean that in a financial way but also socially and culturally and in any other way that makes our city a better place to live and do business.

That's why the Chamber facilitated a housing symposium with business leaders from across Edmonton to see what we can do help better support the houseless. That's why we talked about the public spaces bylaw that came forward at city council. That’s why we made bold statements about changes to the federal capital gains tax. All these issues and more impact the way we can do businesses. What I learnt from you all is that there needed to be a strong voice bringing these issues forward to all orders of government. It’s time we unlock our city’s brand and potential.

If the business community doesn’t become a partner in finding solutions we risk a scenario where we blame the city and the city blames the province and the province blames the federal government that in turn blames the global economy. And nothing changes. The business community has a right and an obligation to step up and lead the charge on many of these issues.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun together along the way. We’ve held immensely successful “Coffee with the Chamber” events where 400 of you at a time turned up, as well as more formal but just as enjoyable events like the Chamber Ball.

We have hosted sold-out luncheons for key politicians including Premier Danielle Smith, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, Technology Minister Nate Glubish and Finance Minister Nate Horner as well as federal Minister of Employment Randy Boissonnault. To help members keep up with current events, we also held a meet-and-greet with the candidates in the NDP leadership race. We had over 1000 of you attend our Annual State of the City Address with Mayor Amarjeet Sohi – you can view that whole conversation here. We’ll have our annual general meeting on June 20th from 3:00 - 5:00 PM, and our coveted Golf Tournament is back in September!

You have noticed many new faces at the Chamber’s offices besides mine. They are part of an energetic and immensely talented team I have had the privilege of pulling together. You’ll be hearing more from them in the weeks ahead as we get ready to present the Chamber's strategic plan laying out clearly and concisely our path forward. Thanks to those 1,000 meetings, you are part of making that plan a reality

There will of course be more meetings, more coffees, more conversations. Perhaps not at the same bustling pace. And, for the sake of my cholesterol level, I really should cut back on the multiple-breakfasts-in-one-day meeting schedule. But my door is always open.

This, after all, is your Chamber.


With love,

Doug Griffiths

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