Bruce Schollie, the newly-appointed president of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, is confident the local region is continuing to emerge from recession fall-out. Schollie, former second vice president of the Chamber, has moved to the top post because Jim Baker recently resigned as first vice president to take up new employment in Calgary.
“One of the stats I’ve been following is the unemployment rate – a really good indicator of economic activity. The Red Deer region’s unemployment rate has declined significantly in the last six months. That to me is a good indicator of the fact we’re emerging,” said Schollie.
“I think (also) that people have to show leadership to decide we’re going forward and say ‘I’m going to make plans’ in keeping with that ‘going forward’ attitude.”
Meanwhile, Schollie, 47, has been on the Chamber board for the past five years.
“I knew my term (as president) was coming – it just came one year earlier,” said Schollie, who is president of the Red Deer based Schollie Research & Consulting.
Upon first joining the Chamber he became an ambassador, which is a volunteer member who wants to become more involved in running events for the Chamber.
It provided a solid foundation for learning the workings of the Chamber.
Service on the board and on the executive committee have also contributed richly to developing the skills and attributes for Chamber leadership, he said.
Looking ahead to his term, Schollie points out that one of the goals of the Chamber is to become a leader in policy development not just locally but also provincially and nationally.
“One of the beautiful things about the Chamber is that you have this broad membership and you have really well-versed, intelligent people that can sit on a finance and taxation policy committee, for example, and come up with policies that will be better for business,” he said.
“The whole thrust of the Chamber is to create an environment that’s good for doing business. We get involved in anything at that macro level that helps to foster a positive environment,” he said, adding the Chamber also has a partnership with Red Deer Regional Economic Development. The goal there is to stimulate foreign direct investment in Red Deer to help diversify the economy.
Schollie said a new international ambassadorship program will aim to use those doing business internationally to become ambassadors for Central Alberta and Red Deer as well.
Meanwhile, local business membership in the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce stands at about 950. Schollie emphasizes the advantages members can tap into from networking and marketing opportunities to educational opportunities and the chance to hear from a range of high-profile speakers.
An interactive web site also provides much to stimulate business connection and growth, he said. It’s ideal for not just new businesses but large and established ones as well, he said.
“On a broad level we’re doing policy and economic development but at a grassroots level there are tangible benefits as well.”
Schollie has lived in Red Deer since 1998. Prior to that, he lived and worked in Stettler after relocating from Winnipeg in 1991.
His professional ventures have enhanced his abilities to tackle the challenges of Chamber leadership as well.
“I think my consulting experience is unique because I’ve probably worked with most of the largest organizations in Red Deer, and many of Central Alberta’s municipalities and organizations for economic development,” said the married father of two. In his business, he works with clients to do research and economic development consulting projects. He also writes strategic and business plans.
“That really has a nice overlap with the Chamber’s mission in terms of economic development and policy. I sense there’s a good match there.”