Chamber president ready for change

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Business: Curtis Dixon taking on new position with big plans for the future

A Turner Valley businessman hopes to wake up what he calls a “sleepy chamber” now that he’s president.

Country Store Diner co-owner Curtis Dixon agreed last month to take on the leadership of the Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce with hopes of boosting membership and getting businesses involved in promoting themselves and their communities.

Past president Kathleen Henderson resigned last month due to family health issues.

“I have big plans and big ideas, whether I can bring them to fruition time will tell,” Dixon said last week. “My immediate priority is exposure and getting people to realize there are benefits to belonging to the chamber. The way to encourage more people to get involved is for the chamber to start doing something people can actually see.”

Dixon ran for councillor in Turner Valley’s municipal election last fall, but didn’t make the top six. He now sees the chamber as a better role.

“It really seems to be the right fit for me as opposed to being on town council,” he said. “It’s more around the lines of what I was trying to promote like showcasing our businesses and getting the town more vibrant. I am excited about it.”

Initially, Dixon would like to gauge the support the chamber has in the communities it represents – Black Diamond, Longview, Millarville and Turner Valley – to see if there is interested in the chambering continuing.

“Everybody I’ve talked to so far says, ‘If I can do anything to help let me know,’” he said. “Hopefully they can put their money where their mouth is.”

While Dixon said he’s excited about his new role, he’s also disheartened after learning other chamber executive members have stepped back from the group, including vice-president Chantal Teasdale.

“From what I heard it’s been a very sleepy chamber,” he said. “The membership has dropped by I think they said 60 to 70 per cent in the last couple of years. The only concern at this point is I can’t do it by myself. I think there is a lot of expectation on me and I hope to live up to it.”

Dixon said he feels support for ideas he’s suggesting for the chamber including implementing a coupon book and advertising package for members at a discounted rate.

“I think things like that will draw more businesses back in once they see a benefit to being part of that,” he said. “I have plans but I need people behind me. I’m hoping to wake the chamber up, so to speak, but it’s going to take time and work.”

Henderson, who has served as president on the chamber for a year, said she is considering stepping into the vice-president role to lend Dixon a hand.

“I’m supporting Curtis a lot in this and I told him I now have a bit more time to put into it,” she said.

Henderson said the chamber currently consists of 33 members and at last month’s annual general meeting three showed up, aside from the executive.

“We cannot get any help from any of the members or people do not seem to be enthused,” she said. “As an executive volunteer we just can’t do everything. There is no community spirit that I found.”

Henderson hopes that will change with Dixon at the helm. She said she sought him out specifically.

“He had run for council in Turner Valley and he was very keen and I was sorry he didn’t get in for council,” she said. “When I thought that this was too much for me I thought that perhaps he might want to take on the role.”

One of Henderson’s concerns is the lack of support from other businesses, as was her experience this past year.

“I talked to people and everyone was enthused, but when it comes right down to it they either don’t have the time or they aren’t that interested,” she said. “If you don’t keep at it then the disinterest grows. The chamber had a few meetings and things like that, but we didn’t do anything new.”

When Henderson joined the executive a year ago, she said it slid along with what the chamber had always done for months until last fall when the executive developed a strategic plan with help from Community Futures Highwood, including a vision and mission statement. It also revamped its website, increased its presence on Facebook and initiated a motivational speaker series for members and the public, which is currently being put on hold.

Other plans in the discussion phase were sponsoring a community market on Canada Day and implementing a marathon in the summer, she said.

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