Chamber of Commerce reflects on 2021

·3 min read

With 2021 having come to a conclusion, Strathmore Wheatland Chamber of Commerce (SWCC) Chair, Hayley Poirier reflects on the events of the year.

The top of the list, she said thinking back to last January, was the 2021 annual Business Excellence Awards (BEA).

“The SWCC continued the tradition of the BEAs. We decided it was too important and that everyone needed a reason to celebrate, so we had our first ever virtual awards,” said Poirier.

“It was a huge success. We had Drew Gregory perform live, Natalie Johnstone from 104.5 More Country co-hosted with Shawn Kisling and we handed out 13 awards virtually to the business community.”

The highlight of the awards, however, came as an impromptu challenge for attending businesses to make donations to the not-for-profit business of the year. This prompted $4,500 to be raised for the Happy Cat Sanctuary.

Poirier added that with concerns regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still posing challenges, the SWCC had to get creative to continue helping local businesses.

“We had weekly check-ins with business owners either in person or on the phone or zoom. Many businesses were still closed or restricted in 2021 and connection became vital,” said Poirier.

During the SWCC’s AGM last April, seven returning directors and five new faces were voted in to sit on the board.

In the second quarter of 2021, Poirier said the SWCC adopted a student liaison program, with a focus being to involve interested students in the local business community.

Those students who got involved were invited to monthly board meetings and were encouraged to participate in Chamber tasks, as well as to join committees.

“Cody Holdaway was our first student liaison who works tirelessly to improve our website and social media,” said Poirier.

“Then later in 2021, we decided to have another student join us. Molly Jones has been another strong addition to our team.”

The former SWCC executive director, Shawn Kisling, stepped down from his position mid-year for what Poirier explained were personal reasons. Following their hiring process, the SWCC chose Scott Silva to take over the position in the third quarter.

According to Poirier, the SWCC spent the fourth quarter working with municipalities on the local municipal elections. The team was involved in setting up and organizing three panel discussions with the candidates.

“We then finished up the year with two education forums on mental health,” said Poirier. “The first one was with Tammy and Todd Williams of TWilliams Financial, discussing the benefits of having employee benefits.”

Closing out the year, Poirier added, the last SWCC board session saw Bob Wilkie of ‘I got Mind’ share a story of his mental health, as well as tools and ideas for practicing everyday awareness.

Poirier explained with the team jumping right in to start 2022 off on a high note, the SWCC is excited for the annual return of the BEAs once again, scheduled for the end of the month.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times

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