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Image: Mohamed Bagha/Saint John Newcomers Centre

Saint John Chamber of Commerce welcomes new chair

By Scott Pettigrew Jul 20, 2023 | 11:36 AM

In his 20 years living in Saint John, Mohamed Bagha has seen a lot of positive change in the business community. Now in his new role as chairperson of The Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce, he has the opportunity to have an even bigger impact on the city.

“I’m really humbled to take on this, as a newcomer myself, such an important role in the business community, helping the business community succeed.”

Bagha arrived in Saint John via Toronto in the early 2000s, coming to complete his post-secondary education. Originally from Kenya, Bagha holds a Masters of community economic development from UNB and is currently the managing director of The Saint John Newcomers Centre. But he’s been part of the newcomer support scene in the Port City for over a decade.

Given his personal and professional background, Bagha says he hopes to help the chamber continue to support the new immigrant business community in Saint John.

“One of the things we have seen recently is demographic changes within our business community. We’re seeing more and more newcomer businesses, and other new businesses as well…international students pitching business ideas, as well as new investors being interested in our region,“ he says. “This is really a driving force…We need to embrace diversity and become a more inclusive and equitable society where all businesses flourish.”

He says his biggest push will be to get all businesses to recognize the value of joining the chamber for themselves and for their employees.

“Marketing is so important,” he says. “There’s complimentary welcoming advertising that you get for free if you’re a chamber member. And networking – there’s already 650 businesses within the chamber’s network and their employees.”

He says being part of The Chamber can help small businesses with few employees access insurance products for their employees, making their business a more attractive place to work.

He says the opportunity to make those important connections is vital to any new business, but especially for newcomer businesses.

“It’s really about growing your business and reducing risk. Being informed about opportunities,” he says.

Reflecting on his 20 years in the city, it’s not just diversity where Bagha says he’s seen many, changes but that the entire city is growing and maturing.

“The amount of retail opportunities that we’re seeing in the community, the boutique stores…a lot of hiring folks from all over the world in itself shows growth capacity in our community,” he says.

The tourism sector, IT and manufacturing are all areas Bagha notes recent, significant growth in.

Bagha replaces Derrick Stanford, the former president and CEO of the Saint John Airport and the current Vice President of Business Development for Postmedia. Stanford continues to sit on the chamber board.

Bagha says he’s got big shoes to fill following Stanford, but that he’s looking forward to the role and bringing his expertise to it.

“I worked very closely and the executive committee and I worked very closely with the rest of the board of directors, as well as the CEO (David Duplisea)” he says of his previous role as vice chair, adding that he is going to be continuing that tradition of working closely with his board and chamber colleagues.

“I’m excited to be working with Mohamed as the chamber continues to become even more culturally inclusive and diverse. With Mohamed’s background and leadership qualities our membership will benefit tremendously,” Chamber CEO David Duplisea said in an email exchange with Huddle.

For his part, Bagha says the future for the Saint John business community looks bright.

“It’s exciting, there’s a lot of opportunities ahead of us,” Bagha says. “Now it’s time to put the shovels in the ground, and get to work.”

“Saint Johners are doers… and that’s why we’re in the place where we are today.”

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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