The Wetaskiwin and Regional Chamber of Commerce has had perhaps the most interesting year in its existence in 2016. The president says the upcoming year is shaping up to be one of the best ever.
Chamber president Wayne DiLallo, who became president in July, was previously on the board of directors until 2013. He returned to the board last March. Why did he want the top job?
“I’d been asked by another director who’s vice-chair now, Tony Good,” said DiLallo at his 48th Avenue office Jan 6.
Looking back at 2016, DiLallo said one of the biggest events that occurred to the organization was the City of Wetaskiwin not renewing the chamber’s contract operating the visitor information centre.
DiLallo said the city decided to go in a different direction, but he said the chamber was unprepared for that decision as the working relationship with the city was lengthy. The chamber executive asked each other…what to do next?
The chamber realized some changes had to be made, as the VIC was a major source of income for the organization. One decision included cutting the executive director’s workload to part-time, but DiLallo knew that wasn’t going to be much of an answer.
“You really need a full-time team,” said the president. “There’s just too much to do for part-time.”
DiLallo said the Wetaskiwin chamber has a strong board of directors, a group of very committed, successful businesspeople that he has very high regard for. He said the board met a lot over the summer and discussed strategic direction and that resulted in another major change: a new management team. “I think the attitude at the table is fantastic,” he noted. “The attitude at the board table is not adversarial. Everybody is working together.”
The Wetaskiwin chamber president said after the VIC decision, the board saw a few options for moving forward. One was to simply fold the organization. No one wanted to do that.
The second option was to go all-volunteer. DiLallo said that wasn’t realistic for a chamber the size of the Wetaskiwin one.
Then DiLallo said Wetaskiwin had three offers of help from three surrounding Chambers of Commerce. DiLallo said when he and others met with the Leduc Chamber of Commerce, the Leduc people already had a plan ready to move forward on. Wetaskiwin and Leduc chambers then discussed the issue for a couple of months to ensure the plan was feasible and then the Leduc Chamber management team was contracted to operate the Wetaskiwin one.
He said the Leduc chamber team is doing a great job. “They do the things that count,” said DiLallo.
The president said the chamber has also enjoyed good relations with City of Wetaskiwin municipal manager Dave Burgess, who he noted understands the role of the chamber in the community in retaining businesses and attracting new ones. “He’s been very welcoming,” said DiLallo.
He said 2017 is shaping up to be a busy year. Monthly business luncheons, usually featuring a guest speaker, will continue, some social media training sessions are planned beginning in February, plans are underway for a business expo in the Drill Hall in May, plans are underway for the return of the Chamber golf tournament, an agriculture expo and business awards will return next fall.
The business expo will be a chance for local businesses to make themselves, their products and services more known to the community.
The president also said planning for a round table is underway regarding the price of fuel in Wetaskiwin. DiLallo said the round table will look at whether or not higher fuel prices in Wetaskiwin encourage people to shop elsewhere.
“Meet in the Middle” will be a special event in Millet for regional partners to meet with a change of scenery.
Lastly, he noted the chamber wants to increase contact with members and keep the positive vibes growing.
“We know we’re back and we’re stronger than we were,” said DiLallo. “I really believe the chamber is headed in the right direction.”