Patti MacAhonic is no stranger to advocacy and education.
But now MacAhonic is directing her energy and expertise toward Chilliwack – specifically Chilliwack business.
MacAhonic was recently hired as executive director of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce.
She brings with her an impressive resume that combines her business acumen with a drive to get things done – locally, provincially and nationally.
A resident of Chilliwack River Valley for the past 20 years, MacAhonic appreciates what this region has to offer.
“Chilliwack is my home,” she says emphatically. “I love it here.”
But the road to the peaceful calm of Chilliwack’s backwoods was a challenging one, pocked by tragedy and triumph.
When MacAhonic’s husband died following a severe workplace injury, she discovered that the legislation governing the rights of those left behind hadn’t changed in more than 70 years. When the original laws were crafted, she says in disbelief, women didn’t even have the right to vote.
MacAhonic set about to change that, working with different levels of government to introduce specific legislative changes that better protect the rights of survivors of workplace accidents.
Along the way she raised three children, earned her MBA, and moved to the fore in the Canadian Injured Worker’s Alliance, and the BC Brain Injury Federation.
MacAhonic has always loved the outdoors; that’s one of the reasons she moved to Chilliwack to work and raise her children. She loves to fish, and is an unapologetic hunter.
In 2007 MacAhonic combined her passion for the outdoors and her ability to negotiate the intricate layers of government to become executive director of the BC Wildlife Federation – becoming the first woman to hold that position in the BCWF’s 60-year history.
It was a fascinating and rewarding experience, she says, one that often tested her skill as a negotiator and facilitator.
Indeed, a few years ago when tensions escalated between recreational fishers and First Nations fishers on the Fraser River, MacAhonic was instrumental in assembling key stakeholders in a meeting that helped calm the waters.
Her work has not gone unnoticed. MacAhonic has been recognized by Minerva Foundation as a Community Leader and was nominated for the YWCA 2010 Women of Distinction Award in the category of community building.
In November of last year, MacAhonic took on the new task of executive director of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce. With a history that stretches back 109 years, the Chamber has played an integral role in Chilliwack’s success, she says. She’s determined to see that success continue.
She plans to do that by encouraging partnerships and collaboration. She sees her role as a facilitator that brings the community’s various talents together, making the whole much stronger than the parts.
That sense of co-operation is already evident in efforts by the Chamber to encourage the City of Chilliwack to join other municipalities in adopting mobile licensing. Not only will the program cut red tape for small business, she told council, it will encourage compliance and increase city revenue. It’s already being employed with success in regions like Victoria and the Okanagan.
Another goal of MacAhonic’s is to increase the profile of the Chamber’s monthly luncheons by bringing in top-calibre speakers to share their expertise.
In March, for example, the Chamber will host a special event, featuring Corey Keith who will discuss different types of financing that’s available to business, and the strengths and weaknesses of each. Keith is a regular speaker on business issues, has given over 250 presentations across Canada, and was a regular presenter as part of Calgary Technology Inc.’s “Financing Your Vision” seminars for over for years.
The presentation starts at 10 a.m., followed by a question and answer session, then lunch and networking.
MacAhonic is also looking forward to continuing the Chamber’s successful after-work event, Chamber Connections. It’s a networking opportunity that not only allows business people to share ideas, but also learn something new about Chilliwack’s diverse and exciting business community.
That community is something MacAhonic is proud to be part of. And she says she’s looking forward to using her skills to work with Chamber members and make it stronger.