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Ponoka Chamber recognized as Alberta Chamber of the Year

The Ponoka Chamber wins Chamber of the Year at Alberta Chambers AGM.
Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce executive manager Les Jaster and president Jim Hamilton celebrate Saturday

Members of the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce can walk a little taller after hearing Ponoka was awarded the title of Chamber of the Year for 2015.

President Jim Hamilton and executive manager Les Jaster were all smiles Saturday, May 23 in Medicine Hat at the Alberta Chambers of Commerce annual general meeting.

Ponoka won the Chamber of the Year award in the 100 to 300 member category and Hamilton gave much of the credit to Jaster. “We were pumped. It is a huge cue to Les,” said Hamilton.

He added that one of Jaster’s goals when he took on the role of executive manager two and a half years ago was to win the award.

“It’s pretty impressive that he’s done it in less than three years,” said Hamilton.

Winning the award isn’t just a matter of submitting the Ponoka chamber’s name. Hamilton said key criteria are looked at to determine if a chamber is eligible for consideration.

Among the criteria that helped the recognition were:

• Increase in luncheon attendance. Hamilton said the average attendance numbers are up to 30 to 35 people per meeting compared to 10 to 15 in previous years.

• Raising the presence of the chamber. There are four key events for the chamber in Ponoka with the trade fair, passport to Christmas, downtown garage sale and the annual business awards.

Hamilton said the business awards have seen an increase of 10 per cent attendance every year for the last four years.

Another criterion that benefited the Ponoka chamber was the development of a policy document that helps government with legislation.

In this case, the Ponoka and Red Deer chambers joined forces to create a policy document that is meant to benefit central Alberta beef farmers.

“We wrote a policy position paper on origin of meat from the United States,” said Hamilton.

Meat labeling rules in the United States required meat in grocery stores to be labeled by its country of origin. However, that requirement has recently been rejected by the World Trade Organization.

“We wanted this to be front and centre that this is important to rural central Alberta,” said Hamilton.

Jaster said he hoped to maintain the progress the chamber has made into next year to win a second time in a row. Winning was a confirmation of the hard work done over the years.

“It confirmed to me that all along this has been a great organization,” said Jaster.

Chamber moving to county offices

After some searching, the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce office will move to the Ponoka County offices, says Hamilton.

The chamber has been searching for a new location since the Town of Ponoka announced changes to the Visitor’s Centre, where the chamber is currently located. He expects the move to be made over the month of June. Not much will change for operations, he added.

“Again, our focus is to work more with rural Alberta,” said Hamilton.

He feels this will get the chamber closer to local farmers and open up other avenues for the chamber while still being able to provide the same service to existing members.