The Chamber - Tourism and Economic Development
The promotion and creation of tourism and economic development opportunities has been a core pillar of historical Chamber activities and remains so today.
Prior to the construction of the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) cross-country travel by automobile was near impossible. In the build up to the passing of the Trans-Canada Highway Act in 1949, which was “an act to encourage and to assist in the construction of a Trans-Canada Highway,” the Red Deer Chamber saw an opportunity and lobbied aggressively for it.
That opportunity was to have the TCH go right through Red Deer. The Howse Pass lies almost directly west from Red Deer, just south of Saskatchewan River Crossing junction where highway 11 and 93 intersect. Originally utilized by First Nations and later the explorer David Thompson, Howse Pass is of lower elevation that most other east-west gateways through the Rockies and mostly comprised of a wide valley leading travelers to Blaeberry, just north of Golden. It would have (and still would) make an excellent route to connect Alberta and British Columbia.
Chamber officials recognized the potential and immense benefit to Red Deer if the TCH would have gone through our city and unfortunately fell short in their efforts to see it happen. Still, the dream of Howse Pass remains and has been pushed for several times by a number of different groups throughout the years.
In 1963 the Chamber offices were moved from the downtown location where the current library exists to its present location at 3017 Gaetz Avenue, just south of 32nd street. At the time, this was the edge of town and the ideal location to serve as the tourism centre, especially with the design of the highway requiring travelers to go right through the heart of the city.
A couple years later the Chamber introduced “Red Deer Bucks” to promote local business and trace the flow of industrial earnings through the city’s economy. The campaign successfully demonstrated how individual bills flow through the economy from workers to retailers and helped build a sense of civic pride in the support of local business. A similar campaign occurred following the 2008 recession as the Chamber launched a Local First campaign to bolster economic confidence, engage consumers and foster community spirit. with local partners to encourage local spending during recession.
Another great initiative was the adoption of the distinctive red Stetson hats utilized by ambassadors to promote and welcome tourism to the community. The Stetson hats were accompanied by the creation of visitor guides and stuffed red deers, which have also made a comeback in celebration of the Chamber’s 125th anniversary.
In 1984 the Chamber formed a venture capital company to attract new industry to Red Deer & Central Alberta. Called Redcap it was developed in response to the recent economic downturn. Redcap worked to diversify its investments to limit risk and placed special emphasis on investment opportunities which develop or diversify the industrial and service base of Red Deer and area. 20 years later the Chamber partnered with Red Deer County and the City of Red Deer (known as the 3C’s) to unveil a new business attraction package highlighting the many benefits to Central Alberta. This relationship has evolved to include the Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP) and Red Deer College to create the investment attraction firm Central Alberta Access Prosperity.
The types of initiative utilized by the Chamber have varied throughout the years, but the purpose has been consistent; to improve the business and economic climate in our region.