- What is your role in the Regional Economic Development Branch?
I am an Agriculture Development Advisor (ADA) working out of the Thessalon satellite office as part of the North Region team. I cover the District of Algoma which includes the North shore of Lake Huron, the St Mary’s River (including St. Joseph Island) and the East shore of Lake Superior. Less than 10% of the District’s land area is privately owned. The privately owned land is concentrated near highways running along the southern and western boundaries of the District.
- What initiatives or projects are you currently working on?
I am currently assisting the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) and colleagues with a community initiated project. The lead communities’ plan is to form an economic development alliance across 17 municipalities and 6 First Nations. Districts do not have county level government structures so larger scale development projects are difficult to resource for small communities. This new alliance wants to find ways to change this by working together. My role is to link Agriculture sector organizations and businesses into the process, preliminary facilitation design, and helping with communication planning and trouble shooting. Early in the process I was able to help MNDM staff with data sources.
- What do you most like about the work you do?
I really enjoy learning every day, interacting with farmers and food based organizations, and trying to match resources and programs from government agencies to develop local ideas. Also, working with data to help people understand the agriculture and food sector and its potential in our unique geography is another highlight my job.
- Professional background or How did you become involved with Economic Development?
I started with OMAFRA as a Rural Organization Specialist in Haldimand- Norfolk. Part of my work there was rural economic development. I helped communities develop new products and services as tobacco production declined. Developing leadership and strategic planning skills in organizations was a large part of the work. Working as an Agricultural Representative I moved into business development –consisting of helping farmers try new technologies and practices to grow their agricultural business. I have also worked for FedNor as a Project Officer to people better understand the federal programs available to communities. Now as an ADA my economic development role is more focussed on supporting the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines staff who have the lead role for economic development in the North. The main task is to help them understand the agriculture sector and how it contributes to the regional economy. Through this I also promote the use of OMAFRA developed economic development tools and processes.
- What is the value add that you give OMAFRA clients?
I am a sounding board for clients trying new farm and food business ideas or thinking of applying to programs. I advise on ways to make the process easier by using my contacts to find and introduce individuals with common interests if required to strengthen the project. I also find ways that a business case can be improved adding either production or economic data.