During the past year, Don Oszli presided over a provincial business association in one of the toughest economic periods in decades.
But the partner with Red Deer accounting firm Heywood Holmes and Partners LLP said his year as chair of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce executive committee went reasonably well.
Oszli, who completed his term last month, said he was impressed with the positive attitude of the business people he met across the province.
“There were certainly sectors of the economy that were hit fairly hard, but I think everybody made the best of it,” he said.
Most remained optimistic and recognized that the downturn was temporary, he said. Capital funding from the province also helped to keep many businesses active and their key employees in place, he added.
For its part, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce tried to connect with its member chambers and assist where it could.
It also encouraged larger chambers to help others, with the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce among those to do so.
“They reached out and helped a number of the smaller chambers.”
In many cases, business people turned to their local chamber to help them weather the storm.
“We actually saw a surge of new members in a number of the chambers.”
As Alberta chair, Oszli had a position on the board of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. That gave him a broader perspective of the chamber movement, he said.
“You get to see the challenges that are faced throughout the country.
“The specific challenges that face Ontario or Quebec were different than the specific issues that faced us in Alberta, but they’re all basically the same types of issues. There are labour problems, there are health care issues, infrastructure issues.”
Moving forward, Oszli expects the Alberta Chambers of Commerce to continue to strengthen its relationship with member chambers. He remains on the executive committee — for his fifth year — but expects the time commitment to be less onerous.
In addition to having more time for family and professional work, Oszli is hoping to become more involved with the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce. He previously served on the local board or eight years, including as president from 2002 to 2003.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce is a federation of 124 community chambers, with these representing more than 22,000 businesses. It promotes business interests, adopting new policies on a regular basis — including many brought forward by its members.
It also provides members with value-added programs like group insurance plans and merchant discount plans for credit cards.