Haydar Al Dahhan, P.Eng. is excited about becoming the 2023 Edmonton Chamber of Commerce board chair. The president & CEO of Design Works Engineering Ltd. brings to the role an abundance of experience, enthusiasm and a deep desire to improve collaboration among all types of businesses in the city.
Engineering was a natural career path for Haydar.
“Since I was young, I always enjoyed tycoon games, complex puzzles, fixing things and working with my hands.” says Haydar. “So, when I graduated from university with a degree in engineering, I wanted to get right into it! The dream was to open an engineering firm. However, I knew I needed to practice and get more experience, so I started with consulting.”
His dream came true in 2014 when he and a business partner opened Design Works Engineering.
“I wanted us to provide a one-stop shop,” explains Haydar. “To help provide this, I trained in both mechanical and electrical engineering. My business partner (I became the sole owner in 2020) at the time provided expertise in structural and civil engineering. Since our start we have grown from a small local business to a thriving national enterprise with over 100 on the team. We started in Grand Prairie, then expanded to Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Burlington, Ottawa and Vancouver. We recently started our expansion into the United States.”
Haydar’s vision for Design Works Engineering was clear from the start.
“How do we make a difference? Every engineering firm provides the same solutions, so how do we stand out? We answer this by being the one-stop shop with a laser focus on service and building relationships. Our clients are our partners. We go to bat for them and support them through the entirety of their projects, and we always go the extra mile. This is what has earned us so many repeat clients over the years.”
The Edmonton branch of Design Works Engineering opened in 2015 and its launch brought something else – or should we say, someone else – to the city. Haydar himself.
“When we were opening the Edmonton branch, I would travel to Edmonton constantly from Grande Prairie. I fell in love with the city, so I bought a house here. Edmonton is growing and there is a lot of development and opportunity – even now in these less certain times. I hear about the advantages of living and working in Edmonton from people in metropolises like Toronto and Vancouver.”
“On a personal level, he continues, “I really like the community and the multicultural aspects of this city. There are a lot of things I can see, do and experience. I travel across Canada frequently but it’s nice to be in Edmonton and be an Edmontonian. It’s the perfect space for fun and for work in every capacity.”
Some of the projects Design Works Engineering has worked on in and around Edmonton include Parkland County’s Aga Khan Garden, the Peak Tower mixed use redevelopment, 97th Street Medical Centre, a variety of restaurants, Tamarack Heights, Lone Pine Distilling and PolyKar – to name just a few.
Design Works Engineering was, in 2020, rated the 83rd fasted growing startup in Canada by Maclean’s magazine. Haydar received a Business in Edmonton Leaders award in 2021 and Design Works Engineering was honoured in 2022 with a Zweig Group Hot Firm Award in recognition of being one of the 100 fastest growing architectural engineering & construction (AEC) firms in the United States and Canada.
“For me,” Haydar notes, “An important part of doing business in Edmonton was to join the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is a valued organization providing support to hundreds of businesses. It was important for me to be part of the board to see how I could help through my experiences and connections in the community, and in the fields of engineering and construction. That is why I got involved.”
Haydar has played a leading role with the Chamber of Commerce’s policy committee.
“It’s an awesome committee!” he smiles. “Chairing the policy committee gave me a front row seat to see policies in the making. I loved being involved and providing feedback. I also got to hear what various businesses around the city were up to and to bring their feedback to the table. Discussions included the municipal and federal budget and issues local businesses are having with staffing. We include feedback from members and from those who have yet to join. When we talk to non-members, we show them what we are working on and encourage them to engage with the Chamber, learn more and see the value of membership.”
In addition to his work with the local Chamber, Haydar is the outgoing chair of the Greater Regional Parkland Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s all about collaboration,” Haydar reiterates. “Together we are stronger. Together we have a louder voice for advocacy.”
As he steps into the position of Chamber Chair, Haydar has a clear concept for his role.
“We are going through a period of great uncertainty and high interest rates. Many businesses are struggling. There is a nervousness in the business community. I ask myself and the board, how do we support these businesses and go to bat for them to ensure they have what they need to be successful and grow?
“We will be working with municipalities and organizations like Edmonton Global to better attract a variety of businesses to Edmonton. What else does the city need? A connection to the airport from downtown. How do we enhance our IT businesses? We make Edmonton a technology hub.
“I want to make it clear that we will be working even harder to advocate for support for our businesses; and as a group, advocate firmly to the municipal, federal and provincial governments to find support for the unique needs of our local business community. When COVID hit, there was plenty of support and that is something that needs to continue.”
Haydar knows there are many businesses that have not joined the Chamber, and he aims to change that.
“I know that for the longest time the Chamber seemed kind of exclusive. We are working very hard to change that image. The Chamber is for all businesses. We are here for small businesses and all the way up to the large corporations. Let us show you the value! Businesses that are not yet part of the Chamber, need the Chamber. I aim to show them how membership will have such a positive impact for them and their teams.”
What is he the most excited about in this role? The answer is a value that drives his life’s purpose – making a difference.
“I’m excited to make a difference. I’m excited to provide support and be entrusted with this position of leadership. With COVID restrictions over, I’m excited to be able to do all this in person. I will lead the board on a bold path that will make a difference for the Chamber, for the membership and for the business community in and around Edmonton. Right now we are actively reaching out to groups and members to provide unparalleled support for the entrepreneurs, investors and corporations that choose to do business in Edmonton. We realize that their contributions are such a valuable thing and we aim to give back to the community as much as it has given us.”
Giving back is something Haydar holds near to his heart.
“The Chamber itself supports multiple non-profit organizations, including the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. At Design Works Engineering we have a new giving back program in development. We are offering donations of engineering services to humane societies and children’s organizations. One of our first projects is with a youth camp in Prince Edward Island.”
When Haydar is not busy leading the Chamber or Design Works Engineering, he is very active enjoying life.
“I like to watch sports. That is a really big thing for me. I love meeting up with my friends and trying out different restaurants. I enjoy mentoring businesses if and when they ask for help. I’m a traveller and explorer, not a homebody,” he laughs.
Haydar looks forward to 2023 as he embraces his role as Chamber chair, continues to grow Design Works Engineering and keeps on exploring the world with his family and friends.
“If I could say one thing about the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce,” he says, “it would be this: your membership makes a difference. What we can do collectively, how we grow and how much power and advocacy we have comes down to our membership. Together we can support each and every business in Edmonton.”
On the personal side, he concludes, “Design Works Engineering has grown and can stand on its own on any given day, but I enjoy remaining involved. I am also considering joining Alberta’s Chamber of Commerce. I’m still young but I still have a lot to give the next generation. At the same time, I recognize there is room for me to learn and grow. The biggest thing, for me, is to keep making a difference, whether that is personal, for the Edmonton community, for businesses or for the Chamber.”