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Chamber of Commerce president resigns

Leigh staying in region

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Whistler’s Chamber of Commerce president, Brent Leigh, has resigned from his position effective the middle of October.

Leigh, who joined the chamber in January 2002, wouldn’t reveal where he was going, but confirmed that he would be staying in the region.

Since Leigh joined the chamber it has moved from a small log cabin in Creekside to its comfortable and spacious offices and visitor centre in the village. It has also grown connections throughout the corridor and with stakeholder partners in the resort.

"Brent has been an excellent leader for the Whistler Chamber during his tenure," said Kathy Barnett, chair of the chamber board of directors.

"From leading the charge of the Spirit Program and new Whistler Card to the very successful Visitor Information Centre, just to mention a few initiatives, Brent has made a significant impact."

Leigh says he feels comfortable moving on knowing he has left such a strong team behind.

"The greatest sense of accomplishment comes in knowing that you are leaving good people to run a good organization and those good partnerships in the community will keep going," he said earlier this week.

"I think one of the most rewarding components of my job here is how we have been able to move to a really knowledge-based team.

"I am very proud of what they have accomplished and between an active and thoughtful board, and a team that has obviously achieved many accomplishments, I don’t have any concerns about succession."

One thing that will be important for businesses and the new president, said Leigh, is to pay attention to the strategies announced by Tourism Whistler.

"(This will)… ensure that we are competitive and actively on the shelf for destination and local visitors," he said.

Of particular concern is the relationship between tenants and landlords, as the cost of retail space goes higher and higher.

Leigh warned that the resort must make sure that guests enjoy a shopping experience found only in Whistler.

"When guests come in and the feel they are having an urban shopping experience rather than a unique one, that is a tipping point that we have to steer clear of," he said.

Leigh is also thrilled that Whistler-Blackcomb embraced the Spirit Program and offered such great ski pass prices this year.

"That is a big watershed issue and for locals to get excited about skiing because we feel we have better access to it is great," said Leigh, who has a Masters degree in Communications.

"It is a another example of how the team here, working with the board, has kept its nose to the grindstone and the partners have been great in recognizing that."

Leigh, who has had a long-time interest in sustainability, also feels that the municipality’s Comprehensive Sustainability Plan will help keep Whistler on the cutting edge of the tourist industry.

And it’s a focus he has seen move throughout the corridor.

The connection between all the towns of the corridor also makes Leigh believe that the future of the area is positive.

"One of the main things that has happened in the timeframe I have been here is that the region has really started to gel," he said.

"(Issues related) to long-term healthy growth and maintaining our long-term core competency in each community is complementary to the other communities’ goals and I don’t think there is another region (that reflects this.)"

Leigh has run his own business in the past and has held senior project and corporate planning positions in organizations such as Daon Developments, Expo 86, and Credit Union Central of B.C.

He moved to Whistler several years ago to pursue an interest in writing. He served as a regional director for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, and economic development officer for the District of Squamish before coming to Whistler’s Chamber of Commerce.

The Whistler Chamber of Commerce is looking for an interim president for a six-month contract while searching for a permanent replacement.

"With the Olympics coming the chamber has an even more important role to play," said Barnett.

"So we are looking for a dynamic candidate who will lead us to that next step."

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