Women in Leadership: Marilyne Aalhus
In recognition of International Women's Day on March 8, the Airdrie City View is profiling four women who hold leadership positions, in a four-article series that focuses on how these women have helped their respective organizations navigate the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our fourth and final profile is on Marilyne Aalhus, the executive director of the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce.
In recognition of International Women's Day on March 8, the Airdrie City View is profiling four women who hold leadership positions, in a four-article series that focuses on how these women have helped their respective organizations navigate the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether it's in the realm of business, politics, charity or public education, these four women have exemplified local leadership and demonstrated their ability to make decisions in the face of looming uncertainty.
We are continuing our series with a profile on Marilyne Aalhus, executive director with the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce. To read our profile on Lori McRitchie, the executive director of the Airdrie Food Bank, click here. To read our profile on Fiona Gilbert, the chair of the Rocky View Schools Board of Trustees, click here. To read our profile on Tina Petrow, Airdrie City councillor, click here.
While the local chamber of commerce is an important staple in any community, the executive director of Airdrie’s chamber could have never anticipated how the last year would impact local business.
“I’m extremely proud of the accomplishments our chamber has been able to pull off,” said Marilyne Aalhus. “We feel our compassion for the community has been tremendous. I think as a woman and a mother, the feeling of wanting to support one another has been so overwhelming this last year.”
Aalhus has been in charge of the Airdrie Chamber of commerce at a time many local businesses have been hanging by a thread. She said as a woman in a leadership role, this has been the hardest year ever, as the chamber tries to navigate and help local businesses that are hurting.
“I have had cries with business owners, and without a doubt seen the devastation of how hard businesses have been hit,” she said.
When the pandemic first arrived in Alberta, the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce was immediately involved, publishing daily COVID-19 updates on its website, as well as links to resources for local business owners.
The chamber did this despite also being negatively impacted by the pandemic, through the cancellation of its largest annual event – the Airdrie Home and Lifestyle Show.
Aalhus’ previous training in the non-profit sector has prepared her to deal with the hardships that have come over the last year. Being able to provide information and support to local businesses during a time of unprecedented uncertainty has been a driving force for Aalhus and her team.
“I am extremely proud of our business community for how they are persevering through this,” she said. “We have such amazing people in this city, it’s what makes working for the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce so great.”
As restrictions continued to impact local stores, warehouses and factories, Aalhus and her team advocated for the safe and gradual reopening of businesses. Her team put together a video in February that included the voices of the local business community in hopes of grabbing the provincial government’s attention.
Aalhus said the idea behind the video emerged after it became clear the Province needed to have a clearer plan to reopen the eceonomy. She said at the time, businesses needed to be offered more transparency from the Alberta government.
“We want people to see how significant the impact has been on businesses,” she said. “We appreciate the efforts the government has made in offering the relaunch grants. There are certain things that have been done, but for businesses that have taxes to pay, the subsidy does nothing.”
Since then, Aalhus said she has been very proud to be able to lead a team that continues to collaborate on new ideas to help the business community.
She noted advocacy has been the biggest part of managing the pandemic, adding the chamber will continue penning letters to provincial government representatives to ask for more transparency and answers.
“I am proud of Airdrie – our chamber has been very vocal with our provincial chamber,” she said. “We are not a small city anymore [and] we need to be one of those voices at the table.