Doug Griffiths’s appointment as the new CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce might have come eight years after he stepped down as the MLA for Battle River-Wainwright, but, as far as he’s concerned, it happened right on time.
“It probably sounds strange, but about every seven or eight years, it feels like it’s time to do something different,” Griffiths says, reflecting on the repeating septet of his life as a community builder. “For eight years, I ran my own company and we did incredibly well. Five years before that, I decided to run for the leadership of the [Progressive Conservative] party and lost to Alison Redford. Eight years before that, I entered politics.”
That company is 13 Ways Inc, a consulting agency named after Griffiths’ 2010 book 13 Ways to Kill Your Community (he wrote a second edition in 2016). The tongue-in-cheek “user manual” was inspired by the lessons Griffiths learned working as an MLA and community builder in rural Alberta, which ranged from simple things like painting infrastructure to more expansive ideas like welcoming outsiders. Now as the head of Edmonton’s largest commercial advocacy group, Griffiths hopes to push for some of those same reforms here in the capital region. But first, he wants to see changes in the Chamber’s approach.
“Because technology is changing so quickly, one way that the Chamber needs to — and is going to — step up is by facilitating better education to help small business owners understand and interpret the way the economy is changing, the impact it has on their business and how they can utilize those changes to become more successful.”
Beyond the Chamber, Griffiths is also hoping to see the city embrace an identity rooted in what it is, rather than what it isn’t.
“Edmonton spends too much time trying to compete with Calgary and trying to become Calgary. And this province doesn’t need two Calgarys,” he says. “What Alberta needs and what Canada needs is a really strong Edmonton to step up to the plate.
“When you look at opportunities for economic success around North America, it’s places that have a regional focus and where they have greater diversity in the types of communities, populations, and job centres. And that is Edmonton.
“I want the Chamber to be an expression and reflection of that diversity that we have around the region and around the city.”
And while it’s too early for Griffiths to say how long he plans to be at the helm of the Chamber — if his previous trajectory is any indication, somewhere around seven years might be a safe bet — he’s certain about where he hopes to leave it.
“When I do leave, I want the Chamber to be the most valued membership that any business owner in the Edmonton region could ever have,” Griffiths says. “Ultimately, when we’re done, the Chamber will be incredibly effective, very influential, a key resource for businesses, and this city will have taken its rightful place as one of the greatest cities in North America.
“It’s an ambitious goal, but you’ve got to start somewhere.“