2014 Winners

Sudbury | Influential Community Trailblazer

Debbi Nicholson

Debbi Nicholson

When Debbi Nicholson started working at the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce 35 years ago only one woman sat on the board of directors.

Nicholson said today's chamber is almost unrecognizable from when she first started her career. "It's changed in that, as our community has evolved, so has the chamber evolved," she said.

When she first started working at the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, for example, Nicholson said Sudbury did not have a mining supply and services cluster.

In 2010, a study by Doyletech Corporation, commissioned by the Ontario North Economic Development Corporation, estimated the mining supply and services sector employed 13,800 people and had an economic output of around $3.9 billion in Sudbury that year.

As the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce's president and CEO for most of her 35 years with the organization, Nicholson has played a big role in the chamber's evolution.

The Influential Women 2014 Influential Community Trailblazer for northeastern Ontario said she was humbled by the recognition. "I never expected I would win," Nicholson said. "I think of all the other women in Northern Ontario who are trailblazers, and I think, 'Wow, if I'm among that rank of women that's pretty special.'"

Nicholson said women tend to "hide their light under a basket" and awards like Influential Women give them an opportunity to showcase their accomplishments.

But she said her time with the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce has shown her there remain many small business owners who deserve the same level of recognition she has received.

"The people that I get to work with," Nicholson said. "They are the true champions of this community. They are the people we should be celebrating in my mind. Business owners in Sudbury are real fighters."

Nicholson's Influential Women award tops off a long list of accomplishments and awards for her career with the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and impact on the community.

The Sudbury Business and Professional Women's Club has recognized her on two occasions with its Woman of the Day award.

In 1999, Northern Ontario Business recognized Nicholson as one of the 25 most influential women in Northern Ontario.

In 2003, she was presented with the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal for her contributions to the betterment of community life in Sudbury and to the chamber of commerce movement across Canada.

Nicholson has volunteered her time with a wide variety of organizations in Sudbury to share her expertise and the local business viewpoint.

She has volunteered with the United Way, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines Northern Development Council, the Sudbury Regional Business Centre, Laurentian University Enterprises Centre, the Sudbury Area Tourism Association and a large number of community economic development committees and boards.

Her most recent appointment was to the Business Program Advisory Committee at Cambrian College in 2013.

"I believe in giving back," Nicholson said.

She added every one of her volunteer experiences has been valuable learning opportunities.

"You really have your finger on the pulse of the community," she said about her career with the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce. "To me it's been the most amazing journey."

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