Dennis R. Schmidt, BSc, MSc, LLB, is the Principal of ALTURA Legal Advisory and the current Chair of the Board of Directors for the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. It’s a distinguished career path that empowers him to help the local business community in an impactful and meaningful way – and it’s also a fine career since his dreams of being a rock star were more a vision than a reality.
“Being a lawyer was much more attainable/realistic,” Schmidt smiles, then goes on to draw parallels between the daydream job and the dream job he does now. “Being in control of my work and career, which clients I work with, and how much I want to work is certainly the vision of how I saw this career play out and I am grateful to have that.”
A recognition by Best Lawyers as a leader in the practice confirms Schmidt made the right career choice.
He continues, “As Principal of ALTURA Legal Advisory, I am the sole lawyer responsible for client matters. I work with business clients facing a variety of legal issues, including corporate-commercial, employment, transactional and litigation matters. My repertoire of clients includes businesses operating in land development, construction, finance, franchising, and engineering sectors among others.
“Being the sole lawyer providing service to clients, I do all the legal work and administrative tasks. While the latter can be time consuming (and is not something I bill for), it gives my clients personalized service in all aspects of my business. Because I have close relationships with my clients, they receive personal, and often, immediate attention.”
After being introduced to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and the work it does, Schmidt felt his experience and the Chamber’s work were a natural fit.
“My exposure to the Chamber was initially through my tenure at Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (now Dentons Canada LLP),” Schmidt explains. “Carman McNary of that firm was actively involved with the Chamber as well as the Alberta Chamber of Commerce. He encouraged me to get involved and, after exposure to the Chamber, I recognized the important work that it does and how it is an important voice for business in our community. The ability to have input on economic issues on behalf of our members and the broader business community is very important.
“Being a legal professional brings, I believe, a perspective to the Chamber Board of Directors that adds to the already broad range of experience and perspectives that you want in a functional and effective Board. Personally, I have acquired experience across a range of sectors and have detailed legal knowledge of those sectors. As such, I believe I contribute a unique set of insights and understanding and can put these qualities to excellent use at the Chamber where representing our diverse business community is very important.”
Schmidt first sat as a member-at-large in the finance and taxation policy committee. After two years he sought and obtained a seat on the Board of Directors. During this four-year time span he also chaired the governance and nominating committee, was a member of the audit and risk committee and led the policy committee.
“Chairing the policy committee,” Schmidt notes, “has the foundational role of confirming the Chamber’s views on policy issues. Our members rely on the Chamber to put policy recommendations forward, advocating to government to ensure optimal conditions for operating businesses.”
Schmidt became Board Vice Chair in 2021 and Chair in 2022 – and he admits, becoming Chair during a time when businesses are ravaged by the pandemic can present some challenges.
“As a member-based organization entering our third fiscal year of the COVID pandemic, it will be challenging to engage with members and ensure we can continue to connect businesses and remain an advocate. The Chamber must keep engaging with its members and offering relevant and timely value through advocacy, programming, and events. This will be important as our region moves forward with economic recovery. The Chamber has been an anchor for business in Edmonton for over a century, however, we need to deliver leadership when it is most needed.”
The Chamber has developed a variety of supports to empower businesses recovering from the pandemic’s economic fallout.
“We are providing updated provincial guidance on COVID relevant to businesses, supports on Alberta BizConnect and distributing complimentary rapid test kits,” says Schmidt.
“In regard to economics, the Chamber’s Better When It’s YEG shop local campaign offered a suite of different activities to members and non-members to assist their businesses. Current and past activities include:
- Office Lunch on the Chamber – appreciation for essential businesses
- Short-Term Co-Working Space – support to help businesses continue to do business
- Business Essentials Funding – offered over $70,000 in total funding
- YEG Market – small business market at Fantasyland Hotel
- Let’s Get Digital! – contest to win a free two-week digital marketing package
- Workshop: Using Digital to Grow Your Business – digital strategy and tactics
- Sample the City – supported over 50 locally owned restaurants, bakeries, and microbreweries in the Edmonton region.”
Additionally, the Chamber continues to offer events that connect the business community with business and government leaders. The Chamber recently hosted the Honourable Rajan Sawhney, Alberta’s Minister of Transportation and the Honourable Ric McIver, Alberta’s Minister of Municipal Affairs. As well, the Chamber offers the Edmonton Trade Accelerator Program, which helps small to medium-size businesses to develop and execute a market-entry export plan.”
Schmidt pauses to reflect on how COVID challenged and changed the Edmonton business community, but also ultimately showed the Chamber’s resilience, agility, and ability to adapt.
“COVID-19 forced us to change and adapt quite abruptly. However, in doing so we learned that we could enhance our value to Chamber members by leveraging technology to create exceptional connection and educational experiences. While this has added another way for members to experience the Chamber, we very much look forward to being able to meet face-to-face on a consistent basis again.”
He encourages businesses thinking about joining the Chamber to take a closer look. There are so many ways memberships help businesses of all sizes. The experience and depth of the Chamber ensure each member has decades of knowledge to draw upon.
“The Chamber is in its 132nd year. We are a strong Chamber of Commerce; one of the strongest in the country. We take great pride in our level of engagement with members and the broader business community to ensure that our views represent the interests of business. We discuss and debate many issues affecting our business community and provide thought leadership and opinion to all orders of government.”
He continues, “The Chamber has the ear of government decision makers and a seat at tables where decisions are made. It has earned its reputation as an effective and indispensable representative of the commercial interests of the business community, and is still doing that. The Chamber plays an instrumental role in positioning the Edmonton region as a great place with an abundance of opportunities to do business, live and work. Our three tenets were created with the needs of our business community in mind—to advocate, to educate and to connect. You can take part in positively shaping government policy for business, teach or be taught new skills and make new connections from people in many areas of business expertise. Use your voice and talents to help create prosperity in the Edmonton region.”
He adds, “Businesses operate with an environment of policies, regulations and governance that constantly evolves alongside new technology, processes, sectors, and many other influences. These, in turn, affect business conditions and the Chamber is a significant participant in how those are set. The Chamber takes great pride in engaging with members and the broader business community and is diligent in discussing and debating issues that affect us. That is how our views come to reflect the interests of business, and that is why the Chamber’s opinion matters. We are very effective in representing the interests of the business community. Our opinion matters. The Chamber of Commerce includes businesses of all sizes in the Edmonton region and is very effective at representing their interests to all orders of government to initiate positive change and a prosperous future.”
The Chamber is here for non-profit and charitable organizations as well as for-profit businesses. Additionally, the Chamber gives back to the city by supporting the Edmonton Community Foundation and the Endowment Fund for Children in Need.
“Personally, I am involved as a volunteer director on boards of other not-for-profit entities and support the Stollery Children’s Hospital through financial contributions and volunteer work,” Schmidt says.
While the tenure of Chair is just one year, Schmidt is determined to make a lasting impact during that time frame.
“While it is a steep learning curve, I will jump into the role with my feet running and hope to provide as much value and leadership to the Board as possible so that the Chamber can continue to be a strong voice for business in Edmonton. I am excited about working with and assisting the leadership team at the Chamber to execute on new initiatives and continue to connect with the business community in a way that can positively influence government policy as it relates to the economy.”
When he’s not helping clients as a lawyer or helping the Chamber move forward on important initiatives, you’ll find Schmidt out and about in the city he loves. He likes to stay active with fitness and snowboarding. He also loves music, has an extensive playlist and looks forward to the return of live concerts and events.
“I have lived in Edmonton for most of my life but for a brief period in another city ‘south of here,’ he grins. “I love the connection to people and relationships I have built with lifelong Edmontonians who, I believe, are drawn to stay here through their connection with the community and drive to continue to see Edmonton prosper.”
Looking at the year ahead, Schmidt concludes, “Personally, I will continue to grow ALTURA and provide good work for good clients. For the Chamber, I will continue to be a voice for the business community in Edmonton and will continue to provide value and service to our members.”