As I prepare my message, I am struck by how much I have learned about the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce in just the last year. You would think that having served on the board of a local Chamber as well as the provincial board would have prepared me for my role as chair. While my time in the organization certainly helped me with an understanding of the history, it wasn’t until I had a year at the helm that I have come to understand the intricacies of the organization. I am reasonably sure I still have a lot to learn.
As a provincial body, we are owned by the local Chambers of Commerce of Manitoba. Hence the name Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, not Manitoba Chamber of Commerce as we are so often referred to. We consider ourselves a grass roots organization, and as such, we rely on our member Chambers for direction as we endeavour to speak for all Manitoba businesses that make up their membership.
This is not always possible, as often the needs and desires of some members will be contrary to the needs and desires of other members. In these cases we try to act in a way we feel will be most beneficial to the majority of our members.
One of our greatest challenges is meeting the needs of our corporate members. While the local Chambers are our owners, our corporate members represent our major source of operating funds. Networking represents one of the prime benefits our corporate members’ desire, and supplying them with opportunities while respecting the events needs of the local chambers has been a challenge. I am pleased that we have worked toward bridging this issue with the Winnipeg Chamber this year, and feel we are making real progress.
There are always two things I have looked forward to at our annual meeting. The first is the Chamber to Chamber “best practices” sessions, however they are named, where local chambers share their successes and failures in the hope that their peers will grow and thrive in their own operations. The second is the policy debate. This is what the Manitoba Chambers is all about. This forum allows all our members the opportunity to shape our focus and policies for the upcoming year. I always find it interesting to discover what different regions hold important.
When I stood before the annual meeting last year, I stated one of my goals as a rural chair was to partner with local chambers on events, and to meet as a board outside the perimeter. We did partner with Winnipeg on a couple of events, and held our June meeting in Morden. As we have held a board meeting in conjunction with our AGM we also met in Gimli and are meeting in Russell as well.
A commitment I made to myself was to end my year as Chair with the organization as strong or stronger that when I took on the role. I am hopeful that the bylaws being ratified this meeting, and the new board structure, and meeting format, will increase involvement at the board level and build upon our strengths.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the past year as your Chairman. The opportunity to meet with the Premier, federal Finance Minister, Lieutenant Governor, and various provincial and federal ministers and bureaucrats has been mind boggling. I feel I have gained personally from the experience, and I thank you for the opportunity.
MCC Chairman 2009-2010