Victoria native Val Litwin is new B.C. Chamber of Commerce president

Victoria-native Val Litwin will take over as the new president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 7.

He replaces John Winter, who retired after 18 years at the helm.

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Litwin, 38, has served as chief executive officer of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce since 2013.

When people consider what the B.C. Chamber does, they might think of policy and advocacy, he said Tuesday from Whistler.

While that is true, Litwin said, the B.C. Chamber is also about “influencing and leading those key conversations about our economy and the future prosperity of businesses and communities in B.C.”

The B.C. Chamber is ready for its next evolution, he said. “We now get to define what the future looks like with our members, with our partners and with our province.”

Patrick Giesbrecht, chairman of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce’s board, called Litwin “a tremendous natural leader with a great business background and a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that chambers of commerce face in 2016.”

The B.C. Chamber represents more than 125 chambers of commerce in the province and 36,000 businesses.

Litwin is well known in the capital region as one of four members of the Kindness Crew. The University of Victoria students travelled across Canada in a motorhome in 2002 to perform random acts of kindness for 110 days.

Their Extreme Kindness Tour venture attracted attention from international media as the group helped out in soup kitchens, cut alfalfa, roofed houses, sang songs, herded buffalo, offered hugs, raised money and performed Shakespeare at a seniors home.

This adventure led to a best-selling book called Cool to Be Kind.

Kindness Crew members inspired others and spread their message through motivational speeches to schools and Fortune 500 companies.

At age 18, Litwin attended a summer program at the University of Cambridge to study English literature and creative writing in 1995. He wrote about the experience in the Times Colonist.

He earned a degree in English literature from UVic.

In 2007, Litwin and business partners opened Canada’s first blow-dry bar, Blo, in Vancouver’s Yaletown. It now has more than 50 locations globally. He is no longer involved with the business.

In 2011, he was vice-president of franchise operations for Nurse Next Door as it expanded into the U.S. market.

Under Litwin’s leadership, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business to launch a Whistler Experience customer-service training program. To date, 11,000 people have been trained.

The 650-member Whistler Chamber has seen membership grow by 80 so far this year, Litwin said.

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