Mark Sutcliffe, the new chair of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, said he sees the evolution of the local economy reflected in his own family tree.
Ottawa Chamber of Commerce chair Mark Sutcliffe.
Two of his grandparents worked for the federal government. So did his father, sister and two aunts.
But the Ottawa-born Mr. Sutcliffe - a writer, broadcaster and business owner - said he surprised his family when he announced at the age of 18 that he wanted to start his own business.
“That is representative of how much Ottawa has changed over the years,” Mr. Sutcliffe said in his inauguration speech at the Château Laurier on Tuesday.
“The business community in Ottawa has grown rapidly in size and significance. We’re not just a government town anymore.”
Mr. Sutcliffe - who is also the CEO of Great River Media, which owns OBJ - praised the contributions of previous leaders of the 157-year-old business association, specifically past chairs Dan Moorcroft, Tim Redpath and Dave Donaldson, as well as former executive director Erin Kelly.
Whereas the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce was struggling for relevancy five years ago, it is presently on firm financial footing, engaged with the business community and growing, Mr. Sutcliffe said in his speech. Membership has increased by 20 per cent to more than 700 members over Mr. Donaldson’s two years as chair, according to a chamber official.
Furthermore, chamber and municipal leaders say there is an unprecedented level of co-operation between Ottawa’s corporate community and city hall, as well as between the city’s multitude of business organizations, which include more than a dozen business improvement areas, Ottawa Tourism and Invest Ottawa.
However, the city faces short-term economic challenges. Government austerity is hampering the local economy, and the Conference Board of Canada forecasted last fall that Ottawa would trail all other major Canadian municipalities with GDP growth of one per cent in 2012. That was expected to increase to 1.9 per cent between 2013 and 2016, which still places the region last among the country’s 13 major metropolitan areas.
When asked in an interview following his speech about how the chamber could counter the economic slowdown, Mr. Sutcliffe said the main role of the organization is to foster a business-friendly climate in Ottawa.
He said this can be achieved by knocking down barriers at city hall, creating a spirit of entrepreneurship and helping companies connect - and discover business opportunities - with one another.
Also on Tuesday, Michael Crockatt was sworn in as first vice-chair of the chamber board. Mr. Crockatt is vice-president of business development and marketing at the Ottawa International Airport Authority and a 2010 recipient of an OBJ Forty Under 40 award.
Last year, he was also named chair of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s board of directors.