Photo by ASHLI BARRETT/Advocate Staff

Chamber of Commerce marks 120 years of service

Sure, the CPR pedestrian bridge, opened in 1909 as a rail conduit, is old. But the grand span has got nothing on the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce.

Sure, the CPR pedestrian bridge, opened in 1909 as a rail conduit, is old. But the grand span has got nothing on the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce.

On Friday, the local business advocacy organization held a celebratory barbecue on the bridge to mark year 120 of being in Red Deer.

The group that today boasts some 900 members started in 1894 with nine.

Those young business people who had come to the fledging townsite bordering the south bank of the Red Deer River gathered at the offices of the Red Deer Review newspaper on St. Patrick’s Day 1894 to establish the Red Deer Board of Trade.

A forerunner to the Chamber, the Board of Trade’s early projects centred around incorporating little Red Deer as a village and ensuring decent roads led to and from the community. Members also focused on luring new industry, securing crucial services and getting Sylvan and Pine lakes stocked with “useful” fish.

In the early 1900s, with membership on the board restricted to men 21 and older who were of good moral character, it attempted to have Red Deer named the provincial capital and printed flattering promotional material depicting high-rise office towers and street cars in the downtown along with steamboats on the Red Deer River.

There were rough economic and organizational times before and after the board became the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce in 1953, but the organization grew significantly with the city in the 1970s and 80s.

Today, it is one of the most active chambers in the whole country in terms of policy development and advocacy.

For Dom Mancuso, a past president of the Red Deer cadre and current chair of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, what makes Red Deer’s body unique is its advocacy work on behalf of the agricultural community.

In 2003, the Chamber submitted a policy resolution calling for an end to the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly on grain sales and marketing. It continued to push its position and met with the federal agriculture minister up until 2011, when legislation ended the policy.

“We’ve got a very strong agricultural policy community at the chamber and that’s kind of unique to us,” said Mancuso, “I guess being smaller you kind of know who your neighbours are, as corny as that sounds.”

While acknowledging that the chamber could always use more farmers as actual members, Mancuso said the organization’s nature is to be grassroots and the Chamber’s employees make it a point to network and understand the issues of others.

One of those employees is executive director Tim Creedon. In the position since 2008, he has seen the Chamber develop or strengthen partnerships with the city, the county, and Red Deer College — in forming Central Alberta: Access Prosperity — and Westerner Park, which is a partner in the Chamber’s Agri-Trade Equipment Expo.

“That level of involvement and those partnerships make us completely unique across the province,” said Creedon.

He said moving forward the Chamber is working on a rebranding process to refresh its presentation to membership and the city as a whole, the organization’s red deer logo merely one thing that will take on a new look in the near future.

Just Posted

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

Bear video meant to promote conservation: zoo owner

Discovery Wildlife Park says it will look at other ways to promote its conservation message

WATCH: Setters Place grand opening in Red Deer

Red Deer’s Setters Place officially opened to the public Saturday afternoon.… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month