Alberta Order of Excellence member Wayne Chiu

Wayne Chiu CM, ICD.D

"By provoking leadership in the area of social entrepreneurism, I hope to stimulate future interest and growth in socially responsible business practices to benefit the generations that come after us."

Wayne Chiu is a successful businessman and philanthropist who has left an indelible impact on the City of Calgary. He has a passion for social entrepreneurship, believing that business and society can work together toward common goals. He launched Trico Homes, one of Calgary’s largest home builders. Wayne is an advocate for affordable housing, and has made significant contributions to many non-profit organizations, the Chiniki First Nation and the city’s post-secondary community.

Wayne Chiu was raised in Hong Kong and grew up with five brothers and sisters in a neighbourhood that was poor in terms of living conditions, but rich in friendships. After spending many years working for other people, Wayne’s father made the decision to create his own opportunities by starting a small business. The importance of personal relationships, along with the desire to control his own destiny, set the foundation that helped Wayne become the successful businessman, social entrepreneur and philanthropist he is today.

Wayne’s parents believed education was the key to their children’s future success. As their standard of living improved along with the economy of Hong Kong, his parents decided to support him to further his post-secondary education in Canada. In 1976, Wayne enrolled in the University of Manitoba’s Mechanical Engineering program. After graduating in 1980, Wayne returned to Hong Kong to work as a construction engineer. Two years later, Wayne set his future course. He married his wife, Eleanor, and together they moved to Canada to build their respective careers.

Arriving in Calgary in 1982, Wayne found work with an engineering company in Cremona, a town located 80 kilometres northwest of Calgary. When he was laid off in 1984, it was difficult for Wayne to find work in the recession. He used this opportunity to turn his personal crisis into opportunity by purchasing a small ice cream stand in a food court in downtown Calgary. Here he gained firsthand experience running his own business. Wayne, who considered himself an introvert, developed communication skills through daily conversation with customers. This interaction also helped him realize that he’d rather join the business crowd than serve them ice cream. After a year of ownership, he sold the store and accepted a sales position in another engineering firm.

There, Wayne continued to accumulate the experience that would set him up for future success. Specifically, he realized that marketing and sales are the driving forces behind successful organizations. By 1987, he could no longer ignore his urge, once again, to own a business. With a partner, he returned to his construction roots and launched a renovation company. This enterprise further deepened Wayne’s personal network and enhanced his project management skills.

The culmination of all of his experience came in 1989, when he was approached with a joint-venture opportunity to build a number of multi-family projects in Calgary. In order to set this apart from the renovation business, he established Trico Homes in 1992, which has since become one of the more successful home builders in Calgary. Trico started small. In the early days, Wayne was able to explore this new venture, which was no sure thing, by relying on the emotional and financial support of Eleanor, who was working as a chartered accountant. He was able to kick-start his Trico project by leaning heavily on the strong relationships he had formed through his renovation company. This reinforced his belief that personal associations are a crucial aspect of business.

Trico grew over time. By 1993, they were able to purchase 16 lots to build single family homes. This single-home venture represented the start of Trico Homes as it operates today. At the same time, the company started work on a 96-unit condominium project. This was the start of a period of rapid growth. To date, the company has built over 9,400 quality single- and multi-family homes in Calgary and surrounding areas and is now one of the city’s top five builders. The company has expanded to become the Trico Group of Companies, encompassing Trico Homes, Trico Developments Corporation and Trico Communities.

To Wayne, business success means so much more than dollars and cents. He believes whole-heartedly in social entrepreneurship, which he sees as an intersection of three overarching themes and actions: corporate social responsibility; philanthropic work; and being in a business that provides something meaningful to people. In short, he believes that the business and social sides of society have a symbiotic relationship whereby business can positively impact important social causes that, in turn, can benefit the business.

In 2000, Wayne’s beliefs led him to change the name of his business in order to deepen its meaning. Originally selected simply because it was available, Wayne turned it into an acronym: TRICO; hoping to reflect, through its day-to-day activities five values: Trust, Respect, Integrity, Community and Opportunity. This mantra has become Wayne and Trico’s driving force. The company regularly gives employees time off to volunteer and holds team building sessions in partnership with local non-profits, such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Food Bank.

An example of social entrepreneurship in action, affordable housing has become part of Trico’s core business. By building lower-rent properties, the company is ensuring that more people have the opportunity for shelter. It’s not something they need to do, but something they choose to do.

In 2008, Wayne and Eleanor launched the Trico Charitable Foundation, combining their passion for social entrepreneurship with their desire to make a social impact. The foundation has launched or contributed to Enterprising Non-Profits, Futurpreneur, the Social EnterPrize and the Social Enterprise World Forum. It also partnered with Habitat for Humanity and the Government of Alberta on PEAK, a project that provides subsidies to first-time home owners having difficulty saving for a down payment.

The 2013 southern Alberta floods led Trico into a relationship with the Chiniki First Nation. Trico worked with the Nation to restore 160 flooded homes. It then used the proceeds of the project to support the community. Collaboration continues through the Chiniki Trico Limited Partnership, working on two major initiatives. The first is helping evolve the Chiniki Cultural Centre into an event centre to build community connections and an educational experience for guests. The second is a renewable energy project which will create employment, skills development and revenue for the Chiniki Nation by generating and selling solar power into the Alberta grid.

Wayne has been incredibly generous with his time and through financial contributions to various causes. Education remains near to his heart. His significant donation helped Mount Royal University establish the Roderick H. Mah Centre for Continuous Learning. Other donations supported SAIT’s Trades and Technology Complex, University of Calgary’s Chiu Family/AstraZeneca Chair in Cardiovascular Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and helped establish the Chiu School of Business at Bow Valley College. He and Trico have long been supporters of the Kids Cancer Care Foundation. He has also served in various capacities with United Way Calgary, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, Calgary Stampede Foundation Board, Alberta Champions, Bow Valley College, the TELUS Community Board and many other organizations.

Wayne has been recognized for his business and community accomplishments through various honours, including being named a Member of the Order of Canada and receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee and Alberta Centennial medals. He has received an Immigrant of Distinction Award, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the CASE Community College Benefactor Award and the City of Calgary’s Community Achievement Award. TRICO has regularly been recognized as one of “Canada’s Best Workplaces” and among “Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies.”

Of all Wayne’s accomplishments, their three children—Patrick, Leah and Elliot — top the list. Wayne values the time with his family, including the opportunity to travel and hike. Wayne Chiu has made an invaluable mark on virtually every corner of the Calgary community.