Staff Profile: Vicki Lass

vicki head and shoulders 2015Get to know our staff. We’ll be profiling them here so you can get to know who can help you grow your ideas.

What is your role in the Regional Economic Development Branch? 

I get to spend my work day doing an amazingly diverse set of activities as an Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor covering Lambton, Huron and Perth Counties. I work on projects to assist with job retention, attraction, growing the tax base and improving quality of life. The work I do helps make rural Ontario an attractive place to live, work and play.

On any given day I could be working  with municipalities (economic development staff, committees), agriculture organizations and commodity groups, business organizations (Chambers or BIAs), and business support organizations (Small Business Enterprise Centres, Community Futures Development Corporations and Workforce Planning and Development Boards).

What initiatives or projects are you currently working on?

I am currently involved in a project in Huron County which involves 50 individuals who are learning to be facilitators for an economic development strategic planning project. Teams of 5 people  from 10 municipal partners (9 lower tier and 1 upper tier) have been working through the fabulous train the trainer materials for economic development strategic planning. This materials we are using were developed by Helen Scutt in the Regional Economic Development Branch, OMAFRA. Helen and I are leading this innovative training initiative. We’ve noticed that by using this technique, an environment which encourages a collaborative approach to economic development strategic planning across the county has developed. It is really exciting to watch the teams increase their knowledge and skills as well as seeing them make strides towards a collaborative regional approach to economic development.

What do you most like about the work you do?

There are many aspects of this work that I enjoy. I like the variety of clients that I get to work with and the variety of projects. But I am especially passionate about agriculture and rural Ontario as both a producer and a rural resident I feel proud to be able to focus my efforts on helping my rural neighbours reach their economic development goals. I also really enjoy being a public servant and surprising clients with excellent customer service.

What are your top skills?

I have been facilitating groups for over 25 years and it is still one of my favourite things to do. Whether I am facilitating a brain storming session, a strategic planning session or a session on responsibilities under environmental legislation, I still get excited to watch people learn and work together.

What is your professional background and how did you become involved with Economic Development?

I think I have been participating in rural economic development my whole life. Being raised in a small rural town if you wanted something to happen you had to dig in and do it yourself. One of my first projects when I was 12, was to work with a team to raise funds and build a tennis court in our hamlet of 300 people. Everyone but six of us played baseball but we wanted to play tennis. So we raised funds, applied for a grant and built a tennis court for the whole community to use.

Later in life I worked with WRED, Women in Rural Economic Development. It was a great organization that focused on helping farm/rural women start their own small businesses, get access to micro financing to build a credit rating and become self-sustaining. So getting an opportunity to return to economic development work has been just great.

What is the value add that you give OMAFRA clients?

I have been an OMAFRA employee for over 12 years and in that time my enthusiasm for working with our client group has never diminished. I think my value add is that I am very enthusiastic about working with this client group, working in rural Ontario and working in economic development again.

How can people get in contact with you?

Email me at Vicki.lass@ontario.ca or call at 519-271-6574

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