Yorkton Chamber of Commerce History 2001 – 2007

In 2001, under the Presidency of Kevin Lukey, the Chamber undertook the task of developing a strategic plan. At that time, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce had implemented its Strategic Plan Action Saskatchewan. Following a meeting with many of the economic leaders in the community, the Chamber began developing its own strategic plan Action Yorkton. The first step in the process was to hire an Executive Director. Donna Brothwell assumed the position in May 2002.

Work on Action Yorkton continued throughout 2002. One of the major Chamber events in that year, with Richard Okrainec as President, was the Celebrate Success Awards evening. The purpose of the Celebrate Success Awards is to acknowledge successful businesses in Yorkton and area. The following businesses placed first in a number of categories: 

  • Wall of Success: Brown’s Leisure World Ltd., Ottenbreit Sanitation Services, and York-Sask Drycleaners
  • Community Merit: Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival, The Health Foundation of East Central Sask. Inc., and Snow-a-rama for Easter Seals
  • Community Involvement: Bank of Montreal, Nesbit Burns
  • Young Entrepreneur: Jim Dandy Clothing Co.
  • New and/or Expanded Business: GX Radio/The Fox
  • Customer Service: The Bentley Retirement Community
  • Property Restoration: The York House Dining and Lounge
  • Business of the Year: Bailey’s Funeral Home/Yorkton Memorial Gardens Crematorium and Family Centre

The final draft of Action Yorkton was presented in 2003 by President Cheryl Denesowych and Past President Richard Okrainec. This plan gave the Chamber new direction and would continue as a working plan to be reviewed on an annual basis. A new mission statement was also created “Representing the interests of business for the growth and prosperity of its members and community”. With a new action plan, mission statement, and new marketing direction, the Chamber approached the future with fresh ideas. 

Many changes occurred in the City of Yorkton in 2003, including the renovation of the Agriplex, which was later renamed the Gallagher Centre. Tax increases to fund this project were a critical issue to the Chamber and while the Chamber supported the economic development of the project, it cautioned City Council on the tax implications to the business community. The Premier’s Business Dinner and Dine-A-Nite were major events for the Chamber. A new event, Business After Hours, was developed to feature several businesses in a mini trade show. This was well attended by the community and served to provide another networking opportunity. 

Also in 2003, the Chamber established Agriculture Days. The intent of this salute to the industry was to bring attention to the beef crisis that began that summer. The negative impact of BSE was felt by many of the city’s businesses so the Chamber hosted an all-Canadian beef BBQ in recognition of the importance of agriculture to our community. This event was recognized by the City and has become an annual event with City Council proclaiming Agriculture Days for a week each summer. 

The Chamber of Commerce developed a Business Package designed to provide new businesses with much of the information they require to set up a successful venture. The Package contains information on such topics as financing, taxes, licenses and business plans. While there are many agencies and associations in the city dedicated to helping businesses, this initiative by the Chamber brought together their many resources and put then into one handy package. 

The Centennial coin project was brought to the table during the Presidency of Todd Haas in 2004. Three coins were struck, each depicting a different heritage building – the Balmoral Hotel, the HBC Building and the City Post Office/City Hall. Together, the City and the Chamber developed a new slogan for the city’s 100th year. “Yorkton – Where Good Things Happen” is found on the face of each coin. The Centennial coin project ensures the Chamber, and Yorkton, has an item of historic and commemorative value for years to come. 

The 2004 edition of the Celebrate Success Awards once again honoured outstanding business excellence. The following businesses received awards in many categories: 

  • Wall of Success: Parkland Tire and Services, Christie Hill Funeral Chapel, and Logan Stevens
  • Community Merit: Yorkton Community Theatre, Kalyna Ukrainian Dance competition, and Yorkton Arts Council Sunflower
  • Young Entrepreneur: Natural Nail Impressions by Leigh-Ann
  • Customer Service: Key Chevrolet Oldsmobile Cadillac
  • New and Expanded Business: Parkland Greenhouses Ltd.
  • Property Restoration: Frameworks Ltd.
  • Community Involvement: Sherring Gold
  • Business of the Year: Harley Davidson of Yorkton Ltd.

Other events in 2004 included Dine-A-Nite and the creation of “Business Matters”, a half hour television show. A City of Yorkton bylaw restricting smoking in public places was enforced in 2004. This bylaw, although very controversial, had an effect on several Chamber members. Playing the role of advocate, the Chamber sought equality for all businesses and lobbied government at all levels to “remain out of the business of businesses”. 

Jason Farrell was elected as President of the Chamber in 2005, the Centennial year of our Province. Yorkton continued to see many changes. New incentive programs for businesses were established by the City with Jason as chair of the Downtown and West Broadway Corridor Redevelopment plan. The Chamber again focused its attention on this exciting redevelopment, but cautioned Council on the tax implications to the business community. 

In October, Sherry MacDonald joined the Chamber Staff as Executive Marketing Assistant. Sherry took on much of the event planning and day-to-day administration of the Chamber. 

In early 2006, under the Presidency of James Wilson, the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Saskatchewan Chamber, supported the Business Tax Review and was successful in lobbying the Provincial Government to implement most of the recommendations from the Review thereby creating a more “open for business” strategy in our Province. Another result of the Chamber’s aggressive influence was the adoption of the plan for the removal of the Corporate Capital tax by 2008. 

The Chamber’s Business Package came to fruition which helped to establish a marketing strategy to support the development of new business in the city. The “Start Your Business” package went on to win a National Business Award. 

Also in 2006, the Chamber established Action 2010, a strategic plan with the objectives of developing the business environment in the region and further extending the Chamber’s presence in the community. The local Chamber, advocating on behalf of business, emphasized to the provincial Government the need to review the provincial sales tax and implement a tax reduction. In the following provincial budget, the sales tax was reduced by one percent. 

In April, President Wilson and Director Ron Evinou invited a number of Past Presidents of the Chamber to meet to discuss their perceptions of the Chamber and its involvement in the community. Overall, the Past Presidents approved the Board’s Strategic Plan and were pleased with the direction in which the Chamber is moving. As this was deemed a successful exercise, it was suggested a similar event be held on a semi-annual basis. 

Celebrate Success Awards 2006 had a record attendance of 500 people at the event. The following businesses were award recipients in these categories: 

  • Business of the Year: Birch Island Land and Cattle Co.
  • Community Merit: Kambusters Racing Club, SIGN Travelodge development, Yorkton Exhibition
  • Wall of Success: Ruff’s Country Wide Furniture, Parks Jewellery, Rusnak Insurance Inc. Community Involvement: Dairy Queen
  • Community Involvement: Dairy Queen
  • Property Restoration: Best Western Parkland Inn
  • Customer Service: Haas Nissan
  • Business Expansion: Shear Bliss
  • New Business Venture: Fuzztone Music
  • Young Entrepreneur: Cab Clothing, Chad Shumay, Aaron Kienle and Brennon Wiens.

It was also an exciting year for Executive Director Donna Brothwell. She was the recipient of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Executive Director of the Year Award in Communities with Populations < 100,000. Donna’s award recognized her work for the Yorkton Chamber and brought national recognition to our city. 

As in previous years, 2007 was a busy one for the Chamber. With Rick Schrader serving as President, the Chamber played a lead role in a number of initiatives. 

In its role as the liaison between the city’s businesses and government, the Chamber lobbied for a better business environment at all levels of government. The Chamber delivered a presentation to City Council lobbying for a lower tax increase than that which the City was proposing. They were successful. The Chamber lobbied the Provincial Government to discard its proposed Minimum Wage legislation. They were successful. The Chamber also lobbied the Federal Government when it became evident that the previously highly successful Hire-a-Student program was undergoing a change not seen as beneficial to small business or non-profit organizations. Again, the Chamber saw results for its lobbying effort as the program was re-instated within the parameters that had made it so successful in the past. 

The Chamber was involved in the committee planning and conducting Yorkton’s 125th Anniversary celebrations. It also secured seats on several of the City’s commissions including Economic Development and Emergency Measures. 

The Chamber’s Public Policy committee initiated meetings with the RCMP and the City to discuss policing needs and the funding inequity from the Federal Government for the City’s share of the RCMP costs. 

The Chamber continued to offer a number of highly successful events. At the annual Dine-A-Nite, the first ever “Employee of the Year Award” was presented. The Premier’s Business Dinner, with the Honourable Lorne Calvert, was well attended by the local business community. Business After Hours, the mini tradeshow and networking event held during Small Business Week was also well attended. The Chamber also hosted an All Candidates’ Forum prior to the Provincial election. 

The Chamber received national recognition for its development of the Start Your Business package. The package was entered into a Canadian Chamber of Commerce competition where it won The Peoples’ Choice Award for Best Marketing. A Welcome to Yorkton video was developed and added to the Chamber’s website. 

Yorkton played host to the first formal meeting of the Executives of Chambers of Commerce in Saskatchewan. The goal of the meeting was to bring together Chamber Executive Directors from across the province to network with one another and to exchange ideas.