It is not entirely uncommon for new employees to feel a little left in the dark on their first day on the job.
That was literally the case for George Duffy when he went to meet board members of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning. A brief power outage in the downtown area resulted in Duffy, the chamber’s new general manager, and the board having to huddle around a window so they could read their meeting agendas.
“At least he knows we’re adaptable,” chuckled Deb Leroux, chamber president.
“We’re very excited that George has joined us. We’re very glad we went through the entire process of running through 21 applicants to find the very best and right person,” she added.
Duffy, who is taking over for outgoing manager Val Trevis, spent Wednesday afternoon getting acquainted with members and other community partners – including representatives from the Downtown Vernon Association, Community Futures and Mayor Wayne Lippert – during a meet and greet at the chamber office.
Duffy, who grew up on the Prairies, moved to the Okanagan last year when his wife, Alanna Dean, took over as director of engineering with the District of Coldstream. Before that, they lived in Abbotsford for the last seven years.
“We decided we wanted to get out of the major metro area and this was an opportunity waiting to happen. Like a lot of people, we came out on holiday out here and really liked it,” said Duffy, who prefers the Okanagan’s drier climate, and is an avid hiker and cyclist, both on and off road.
Duffy was active with the Calgary chamber as a volunteer member of its tourism and environment committee for six years. Despite its smaller size, he says Vernon, with its membership of about 800 small- to medium-sized businesses, has a lot going for it.
“My first impression is very positive with this chamber because it seems to have a very progressive attitude towards governance and towards business,” he said.
“The chamber here is extremely well organized and seems to be well respected in the community. They put on a ton of great events.”
Duffy, who originally studied biological sciences technology at NAIT in Edmonton, also has two decades of experience in the tourism field. Most recently, he was owner of an eco-tourism company in Calgary called Worldwide Ecolodges which operated in Central and South America. He has since initiated a succession plan to allow an employee to buy the company from him.
Duffy says it will be a while before he can begin working with the chamber to determine which direction it wants to head in the future. More importantly, he wants to get out into the community and find out what makes Vernon tick.
“My priority is to really get out and meet the members. I want to get to know them, find out what’s important to them and how the chamber can help them out,” he said, adding there is a backlog of e-mails and voicemail messages he needs to plow through before he can really get up to speed.
Duffy plans to continue working in the vein of member advocacy and networking, while providing leadership and encouraging sustainable growth. He would also like to see the Vernon chamber continue bringing policy resolutions to government.
Added Leroux: “The staff is all engaged and looking forward to the new things that can be added and we are looking to continue to build on all the wonderful things that have already begun.”
Duffy’s first major function will be the Valley Wide Business After 5, Thursday, May 12 at Gatzkes Farm Market in Oyama. After that, it will be the B.C. Chamber of Commerce AGM at the end of May in Prince George.