The Chamber in the Community
Throughout the Chamber’s 125 year history the underlying goal of building a vibrant and thriving community has persisted. Led by Raymond L. Gaetz, our city’s founders recognized the importance of creating a community where we all want to live, work, and play. That is because a community is far greater than the sum of its parts because a gathering of homes and businesses means little without a sense of belonging and pride along with the collective intent to be a part of something greater.
Today that goal remains a core pillar of the Chamber’s strategic plan as our organization undertakes initiatives to promote economic and community development in Central Alberta.
As a volunteer-based organization, members of the original Board of Trade, which would later become known as the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce dedicated their time to improving their community. Members have always recognized that when the community prospers, so will their own business. Starting back in the 1930s when the Board of Trade was instrumental in arranging Jubliee Celebrations in honour of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Red Deer. In the 1940s the Chamber raised funds to pay for two ambulances and planted trees along what is now Gaetz avenue.
In the 1960s the Chamber helped launch the first local United Way campaign in Red Deer, introduced the Red Deer Buck as a way to promote city industry and organized the first Christmas Home Lighting and Trade Fair & Queen Contest along with a major airshow at the Penhold airport.
The seventies and eighties marked an incredibly prosperous time for the Chamber as newfound wealth resulting from the operating the Stanley Cup Sweepstakes and the Western Canada Lottery Corporation had the Chamber coffers rife with funds. Monies from these ventures were donated to the Museum ($100,000), the Golden Circle ($50,000), a Chamber scholarship fund ($40,000) and Westerner Park ($120,000).
In 1981 the Chamber helped to organize the Junior Achievement program for emphasis on youth work, which is an initiative we still support today. Later in the 90s the Youth Employment and Development Centre opened which the Chamber operated with the government.
1984 was a pivotal year for the Chamber as we became managing partner for Agri-Trade, which today is one of the best farm equipment shows in North America. In 2018 it was announced that the Chamber in partnership with Westerner Park was successful in a multi-year bid to host the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) in Red Deer. Large scale events like these play an important role in our community, together generating an estimated $200 million in annual economic impact.
An integral part of our year today, the Business of the Year Awards was first organized in 1983 as the Annual Banquet to recognize excellence with the Citizen of the Year Award and Service Club or Group of the Year Awards. These awards celebrate and promote local business excellence giving entrepreneurs the recognition they deserve.
Looking back through this laundry list of events and initiatives a trend becomes clear. Work undertaken by the Chamber is focused on building the community. Projects such as the City’s Jubilee Celebrations create and harness community pride. Donations to non-profits like the Museum, Westerner Park, and the Golden Circle ensure Red Deer has attractive and well-funded amenities that are an essential part of our city’s fabric.
As we look forward, we know that the challenges facing business and our community will continue to evolve. However, the just cause of the Chamber remains. The community is stronger when it works together and far more likely to succeed through collaboration.