The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce is looking to persuade anyone who will listen that this is not your father's chamber.
Brian Scharfstein, president of Canadian Footwear, was sworn in as the 119th chairman of the 2,000-member Winnipeg business organization at its annual general meeting on Thursday.
The tone of the meeting was far from the stodgy, bureaucratic, elitist organization that many believe the stereotype of a chamber of commerce to be.
The chamber's affable president, Dave Angus, fresh from receiving the executive of the year award from the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Canada, said it will continue its "Bold" initiative, something that was originally conceived as a one-off provincial election initiative.
"We were going to stop after the election," Angus said. "But we had a bunch of ideas that we threw against the wall to see what would stick and a lot stuck."
The provocative campaign elicited all sorts of ideas about how the provincial economy operates and Angus said there will continue to be more announcements from the chamber addressing issues such as clean technology, venture capital, transportation and infrastructure issues.
Scharfstein, himself a recent recipient of an entrepreneur of the year award from Ernst & Young, said among other things, he wants to encourage even more participation in chamber activity by the city's business community.
"That means not just business owners, but staff (from member companies) should be encouraged to come to chamber events," Scharfstein said. "I think more of us should make involvement with the chamber part of our business strategy."
To help accomplish that, the chamber's Paris building boardrooms are being made available, free of charge, to members.
That may be a precursor to a more permanent and full-time meeting place the chamber will become part of.
Angus said the chamber is giving itself one year to come up with a building development plan for its newly acquired World Trade Center Organization licence.
In April, the chamber, in partnership with ANIM, the province's bilingual trade organization, was successful in its application for membership in the international trade organization.
WTC board soon named
THE board of directors of Winnipeg's new World Trade Center chapter will be announced during next week's Centrallia event.
ANIM, the province's bilingual trade organization that is the main organizer of Centrallia, will transition into the entity that will manage the WTC.
The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce split the $200,000 WTC application fee with ANIM. The chamber funded its half through its own financial resources. ANIM received a contribution from the National Bank of Canada to pay its half.
Members of the chamber will automatically become members of the World Trade Center.
The chamber is coming up with a plan to establish a downtown real estate development that will become home to the WTC. It is likely to include office and some kind of dining-room space.