AGM 2010: Oh, What A Night! Russell Takes Centre Stage

May 1, 2010 | Government News

Friday night was hosted by the Russell and District Chamber of Commerce.    

Sandra Altner, CEO of the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner, CEO of the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner, CEO of the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba (WEC), started the evening off by bringing greetings and speaking about three WEC initiatives: WEC-Tech, Technology in the 21st Century:  Making it Work for Small Business, and the On-Line Business Plan Development; Series. 


WEC-Tech is a two-year program designed to assist women-owned businesses adopt and use technology to make their businesses more productive, efficient and profitable. Designed and developed by the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba, it is the first program of its kind in Canada.  

The program will help participants:

  • assess their technology needs (technology may include hardware and software solutions – financial, communications, information management, goods management – and Internet usage) ;
  • align their technology development plan with their strategic growth objectives;
  • plan the incremental changes required;
  • gain help in identifying, choosing and making purchasing decisions regarding software and hardware;
  • access ‘friendly’ funding to fulfill their technology needs;
  • integrate the technology into their workplaces;
  • receive follow-up training and support in using new systems and in analyzing and optimizing the results. 

The program will be promoted to Manitoba companies that are at least 50% owned and controlled by a woman or women. They will be operating and potentially growing businesses that have been in operation for at least one year. Find out more here

Technology in the 21st Century –  Making it Work for Small Business:

This event will be held on June 1, 2010 from 8 am to 4:30 pm at The Fort Garry, 222 Broadway. Experts will speak about accounting tools, inventory controls, database management, Web 2 solutions and so much more. As well, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions of the experts, network with peers and interact with service providers who are on the cutting edge of the latest technology applications for small business. To learn more and/or register click here

The On-Line Business Plan Development Series:

The WEC and the WECM Entrepreneurship Centre of Excellence are launching a state-of-the art online business plan development series. 

Designed specifically for on-line, convenient time of choice delivery, the course modules will assist entrepreneurs gain an understanding of the importance of business planning. They will identify the critical components of a comprehensive and effective plan. 

Using a step-by-step process, the business plan development series will help entrepreneurs explore their business concepts and then build the foundation
for a successful enterprise. 

The series begins with a discussion of market research techniques and follows the development of a marketing plan. Presentation of the basic market planning components is followed by a discussion of the operational and logistical aspects of the business. Finally, the participants will be challenged to think hard about the financial requirements of getting the business up and running.  

The major business planning sections are all tied together in a concise and user-friendly format. Each workshop builds on lessons learned in the previous sessions and participants are encouraged to work on their plan as they progress through the series. 

For more information on the series, visit

Smellie (300 x 150)Next up, the attendees enjoyed a reception at Layh & Associates, which is housed in the Smellie Building.  The reception was sponsored by WEC. 

The Building: 

Jan and Donald Layh purchased the Smellie Building three years ago, in 2007 after Don decided to open a law practice in Russell.  The Building had sat empty for several years, owned by a community organization.  The needed renovations to the building would have dissuaded anyone with a sound mind from buying it – the floor had sagged approximately six inches, the windows needed replacing, the electrical, plumbing and heating system had to be replaced, an old cast iron boiler had to be removed, no insulation graced the building.  Although several historic features were apparent, they were hidden by “modern renovations.”  A maple floor lay under a covering of worn carpet, tiles and plywood.  Massive fir columns were covered in layers of oil based paint.  Tin ceilings were obstructed by suspended ceiling tiles and fluorescent lights.  Windows were covered in with plywood.  

The Layh family, with the assistance of a local carpenter and electrician, set about the project. 

Don Layh

Don Layh

Don Layh and his brother Harvey engineered a system to raise and level the floor over the first winter with floor jacks gently lifting the behemoth fractions of a millimeter at a time, until the floor was leveled and resting on newly poured concrete footings set into the basement.  Harvey and Don removed the ancient cast boiler by using a gasoline-fired emery stone to cut slots to accommodate cold chisels.  With large sledge hammers the anchored chisels were hammered to split apart the ancient boiler that had been installed in the basement in 1909.  New, efficient, natural gas furnaces replaced the old relics.   

Don and Jan’s son, Adam, was in charge of the drywalling, a challenging task with 14 foot ceilings.  Adam scraped clean the 5,000 square feet of tin ceilings and repainted the ceiling.  He lifted and refit much of the original maple flooring installed in the oldest part of the building, built in 1885.  Adam and Jan chose vintage colours that compliment the historical integrity of the building.  Painting the dramatically high walls in these alternating bold and subdued colours creates an immediate impression of the grandeur of the building.

The building has been completely insulated with new electrical and plumbing service. 

The Finishing & Furnishings: 

Smellie Mingle (350 x 140)The interior of the building has been restored to the original maple flooring, showing the wear patterns of 100 years of service to this community.  Well worn grooves show where clerks must have stood, serving customers.  The building, now used as a law firm since April 5, 2010, has interior offices, open to the high ceiling, with offset doorways (without doors).  Old storm windows, carefully framed into the interior walls, show the wavy glass common decades earlier and let natural light into each of the offices.  Old tables, many of them found in the basement, have been salvaged and serve as law firm desks.  One holds a display of a book that Layh has recently published.  A Legacy of Protection is a 600 page treatise on the history of farm debt legislation in Saskatchewan.

Other tables hold art work, in particular a sculpture of a caribou by the well known Saskatoon

Sculpture by Bill Epp, painting by Jan Layh

Sculpture by Bill Epp, painting by Jan Layh

 sculptor, Bill Epp. 

The office also displays Jan Layh’s wonderful art (see more samples at the bottom of this page). To access Jan’s Bio, click here.

The board room table is built around two large pine planks that were used to slide groceries from the main floor loading platform to the basement.  New oak surrounds and contrasts with the scarred pine, now covered with a 14 foot tempered glass. 

A large, walk-in vault will be put into modern service to hold client’s wills and minute books.   

Assessippi (350 x 150)Next up, attendees visited  the Asessippi Ski Area and Resort, a recreational facility offering skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing in the winter and river tubing, paintball, kayaking, bungy trampoline jumping and hiking/biking trails in the summer. 

The mission of Asessippi Ski Area & Resort is to create an escape to somewhere different and exciting. It is a charming village surrounded by fun activities, expanding summer and winter activities for the entire family, hosted by people who love to serve people. It short, it provides great hospitality and a premium affordable resort, not too far away. 

In addition to the incredible scenery, attendees enjoyed great food, a silent and regular auction, and presentations about the area and its economic development strategies.

Auction (260 x 230)

Some Silent Auction Items

A Presentation at Asessippi

A Presentation at Asessippi






Art (260 x 210)

More Art by Jan Layh

Art 2 (260 x 210)

More Art by Jan Layh







Art 3 (200 x 300)

More Art by Jan Layh

The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce thanks the Russell and District Chambers of Commerce for hosting our 2010 AGM and these sponsors for making the event possible (click on the company name to access their website):

AV Sponsor

Avent Pro

Chairman’s Reception

Meyers Norris Penny LLP


Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance


OlaTech Corporation 

Tribal Councils Investment Group Of Manitoba Ltd.


Imaginets Resources Corp

Manitoba Public Insurance

Southport Aerospace Centre Inc.

MTS Allstream

Manitoba Pork Council

Procurement Services Branch

Rogers Communications Inc.

Manitoba Lotteries Corporation

Manitoba Hydro

Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba

Women’s Enterprise Centre


Credit Union Central of Manitoba

Maple Leaf Foods

Entrepreneurship, Training & Trade

Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP

Corporate Supporter

TD Merchant Services

Canada Safeway Limited

Travel Manitoba

PCL Constructors

The Canadian Wheat Board

Trivia Contest

Cando Contracting Ltd.

Peak of the Market 

2010 Speakers Series Keystone Sponsor:


 To find out more about the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation click here 

 2010 Speakers Series Diamond Sponsor:


To find out more about the Tribal Councils Investment Group Of Manitoba Ltd. click here.

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