Staff Profile: Darren Shock

Get to know our staff. We are 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?Darren

As an Economic Development Specialist, my role is to lead and develop economic development programs for the province’s rural municipalities. At the moment, I am the program lead for both the Downtown Revitalization (DR) program and the Economic Development Analysis Resources (EDAR) program (home to the Ministry’s Analyst tool). At times, this might include delivering program-specific training or offering technical assistance to communities in each of these program areas, but I mostly work with our excellent group of Agricultural and Rural Economic Development Advisors to assist communities with their key economic development challenges. Being based in the Guelph office of Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I am lucky enough to have the responsibility to assist communities across the province with the implementation of these programs, so you never quite know where I might show up.

What initiatives or projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working with Karen Fischer, one of our Advisors in Eastern Ontario, on a pilot project to apply our Downtown Revitalization programming at the regional level in Prince Edward County. The initiative includes a detailed study of five community downtown areas across the County, with an understanding that those individual downtown areas will play a key role in the longer term economic development prosperity of Prince Edward County. The project will hopefully give the community the knowledge it needs to develop locally- and regionally-oriented strategic directions that will identify and prioritize opportunities to attract, retain, and develop residential and commercial opportunities in each area, as well as strengthen the linkages between these downtown areas on key regional initiatives like tourism and destination development.

What do you most like about the work you do?

So much of economic development work comes down to problem solving – finding new ways to address challenges, or identifying new areas of opportunity that improve the community. That gives you the freedom to research and study such a wide and diverse range of topics, and connect with very interesting people in industry, academia, government or community organizations, all in pursuit of the best options or strategies available to tackle a certain problem. Given that opportunity and freedom to identify and explore ideas while meeting a diverse range of people, I am always able to find something exciting and engaging about the work I do.

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

I became involved with economic development directly out of the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo. I applied for a position as an economic development researcher in the City of Barrie, based on a brief memory of discussing the origins of the field in a planning course. With an education in planning, I quickly developed an interest in all of the more practical areas of economic development while working at the city – regional analysis, land development issues, and the role that GIS can play in support of economic development. I left the city to take a job as a land use consultant briefly, but came back to the field in early 2009. Prior to joining OMAFRA, I worked with communities across Canada on various economic and community development projects as a consultant. As an economic developer with a planning background, I feel like I am often able to see the challenges and opportunities communities face from a unique perspective in our field, appreciating the physical, economic, and social implications that potential strategies and actions might have on the community based on that more land use-oriented perspective. Given the range of people and communities I have had a chance to work with since starting in economic development, I always look positively on that decision to move to a new community and new field shortly after graduating.

What is the added value that you give OMAFRA clients?

It probably is not the length of time I have been with OMAFRA (sitting at around three months right now). My experience over the last ten years spans both public and private sector environments, and has given me the chance to work with some of Canada’s largest capital cities, as well as small, rural, and northern communities on a range of community development projects. I think that experience gives me quite a bit of background on the unique challenges that communities of different sizes, in different parts of the country, with different economic characteristics face, as well as some of the strategies and tactics that have been used to address some of their key barriers to economic development. I try to offer as much of that knowledge as I can in all of my tasks at OMAFRA.

How do people contact you?

Email me at darren.shock@ontario.ca or call me at 519-826-6634.

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