(Caption: Director of Indigenous Relations Trista Pewapisconias, Executive Director of the Indigenous Resource Network John Desjarlais, CEO of Nekaneet First Nations Economic Development Cherish Francis)
Are cool things happening in your community? You may have an Economic Development Officer (EDO) to thank.
EDOs are frontline supporters of local entrepreneurs and community initiatives, and they know their communities inside and out. These professionals equip themselves with extensive knowledge and tools to initiate, support, and/or drive projects forward.
In our work with co-op start-ups, we’ve met some exceptional EDOs who go above and beyond to build businesses that will help their regions thrive. They are passionate community builders who work in a variety of organizations or institutions: from Community Futures offices and economic development corporations, to municipal EDOs and land managers.
Here are some of the amazing qualities EDOs have that create big impacts in their communities.
EDOs have a long-term vision
EDOs don’t just look for quick wins: they think about how to build long-term stability into their communities.
Lauren Johnson, Economic Development Officer for the Town of Shaunavon, SK, wanted to make sure residents of her town had access to the capital they’d need to start or grow businesses and other initiatives. After attending one of our Creating Connections Workshops, she got in touch about starting a community investment co-op. She worked with a team of passionate leaders who wanted to support local entrepreneurs and invest in their community.
Lauren recognized the long-term vision for this kind of co-op and the impact it could have in a small town. Her community insights, expertise, and hands-on approach helped expedite the Shaunavon Opportunity Fund Co-op’s start-up journey. They’re now working on growing their local investment fund and identifying opportunities to support Shaunavon’s business community.
EDOs look for ways to collaborate
Sometimes, you need to team up with partners who have the same vision for your community or region. That’s just what the folks at Maple Creek Childcare Co-op did.
EDOs Gillian Laboucane from the Town of Maple Creek and Cherish Francis from Nekaneet First Nation submitted an entry in our Team Up on a Start-Up contest, pitching an idea for a daycare centre that would be created and owned by the Town, the Rural Municipality (RM), and the First Nation.
These leaders recognized that building support for a parent-owned facility might take some time — and their communities needed daycare spaces fast. So, they got together and quickly incorporated the co-op, completed a needs assessment and feasibility study, and applied for funding. Because of their efforts, the daycare co-op secured $420,000 through the provincial Space Development Grant and $36,120 in additional start-up funding.
Because of their collaborative approach, the co-op will build 42 daycare spaces for Maple Creek and the surrounding area.
EDOs aren’t afraid to try something new
When progress stalls, try something new!
That’s what folks in Manitoba’s Sunrise Corner did after years of trying to start a senior’s housing facility. Martin Van Osch, the RM’s Chief Administrative Officer, and Monique Chenier the EDO, were tired of seeing seniors have to leave their homes to access the care they needed. Alongside committed volunteers, they created the Southeast Community Service Co-op to build a community-owned assisted living facility.
Building a facility of this scale isn’t easy. Martin and Monique brought valuable experience to the board table, which sped up their progress. The co-op has received several grants, continues to fundraise, and is working on a grant with CMHC. Their goal? Timberline Community Housing, a 20-bed assisted living facility near Sprague, Manitoba.
EDOs inspire change
Western Canadian communities are well-served by their economic development professionals, and we’re proud to have worked with so many inspiring leaders. Their vision, passion, and commitment to community have helped catalyze many innovative new co-operatives.
So, this Economic Development Week, thank an EDO!