HTA webinar seriesHometown Advantage Webinar Series

Welcome to the Hometown Advantage webinar series! Each webinar in this series aims to create a space for economic development professionals to meet, share insights and challenges, and learn from their colleagues. The one-hour sessions each focus on a specific economic development challenge and are led by economic development professionals.

Besides hearing from leaders in the profession, participants have the opportunity to join breakout sessions to share their thoughts on the topic and hear from their peers. Register for one of the upcoming webinars below.

Upcoming Webinars

Cultivating Welcoming Communities

Immigration provides numerous benefits to a community. For example, it can help fill labour shortages and strengthen the long-term vitality of your community. But it’s essential to have newcomer services that make people feel welcome and support their social and emotional health and wellbeing. Ensuring housing is available and creating opportunities for connection and belonging are two examples of how to cultivate a welcoming community.

Join host Heather Hallgrimson and guest Wendy Petersen for an insightful discussion about ways to help people moving to your community feel welcome and part of the community.

Date and Time:

September 14th, 2022 from 12 pm to 1 pm (MT)


Wendy Petersen, Community Development Analyst, Community Futures Westman and founding member of Hand in Glove, a community-based cooperative that provides newcomers with an opportunity to earn an income, meet new people, and learn new skills. Read their story HERE.

Watch Past Webinars

Leveraging your local assets: How to use what you have to create exceptional tourism experiences

Playing to your strengths is a time-honoured strategy for economic developers. For rural economic developers, it’s especially important to leverage every asset your town or region has to claim a stake and make a difference. Strapped for time and money, attracting investment and growing local businesses is a lot more than a full-time job. It’s a passion that attracted the best and brightest amongst us. In this webinar, we’ll speak with two economic development professionals with a talent for turning local assets into an exceptional tourism experience. Register today!


Christina Birch


Christina is the Regional Economic Development Coordinator for Community Futures Sunrise. In addition, she runs a consulting business providing community and economic development training and services to regional organizations and municipalities. Not one to sit still, Christina is also a Destination Creation Facilitator, Strategic Doing Practitioner, and sits on the Saskatchewan Economic Development Alliance (SEDA) Board of Directors.

Clark Hoskin

Based in Norfolk County, Ontario, Clark Hoskin is a Senior Manager at Deloitte. Since 1994, he has worked in destination marketing and economic development at a rural community and regional level. He currently consults on tourism and economic development projects across Canada.

The webinar took place Wednesday, June 15th, 2022.

How to be Successful at Economic Development Without Blowing the Budget

Economic developers are not often in the position where they have too much money to do the work they need to do. So, what are some tricks for doing economic development on a shoestring budget – especially when you’re trying to get multi-year projects off the ground? Join business development lead, Heather Hallgrimson, for a lively discussion with Deb Brown and Becky McCray from SaveYour.Town on how to save money while being effective at your job. Deb and Becky will share actionable, pragmatic ideas that apply to a wide variety of contexts. Both Deb and Becky have world-class ideas and the unique ability to communicate them clearly and with a lot of energy.


Deb Brown

Deb grew up on a farm outside of Geneva, Iowa, population 141. Her first entrepreneurial venture was raising a hog. You’d find her either with her nose in a history book or out exploring abandoned houses and buildings. Funny, things haven’t changed much, she’s still working on filling empty buildings in small towns.

A wealth of experience includes leading a small town chamber of commerce, foreign casualty insurance underwriting, bartending, retail management, selling knives, and working with small towns. Deb has lived in tiny towns, small towns, small cities and a major metro city. Yet, she’s come home to a small town, Webster City, Iowa, and travels to many others to help. Deb is a relentless optimist and knows how to build possibility in your small town. Better yet, she inspires you to take small steps towards a brighter future for your community.

Becky McCray

Becky believes small towns have a future. She watches the global trends in the economy, technology and society, then she delivers practical steps rural people can implement right now to shape the future of their town. Her advice is based on her real-world experience as a lifelong entrepreneur and cattle rancher.

Becky’s career in small towns includes work as owner of retail stores, as city administrator for a municipality of 990 people, as an executive with rural nonprofits and as a teacher of computer and business classes. In 2004, she ran for state legislature, losing by just one vote per precinct. She believes we learn from both our successes and our failures, even when those failures are printed in the local newspaper. She makes her home in Hopeton, Oklahoma, a town of 30 people. She doesn’t just talk about rural issues; she lives them.

Deb and fellow co-founder for SaveYour.Town, Becky McCray believe small towns can be saved – including yours! They also know that no one is coming to do it for you. You’re going to have to step up, and they want to help.

The webinar took place Wednesday, May 11th, 2022.

Getting Creative with Business Succession

Besides the “silver tsunami” of retiring baby boomers and the ensuing business transitions coming with it, the pandemic has caused most small businesses to rethink their strategies or business models. In this webinar, we’ll talk to two experts with hands-on experience with business transitions and revitalizing existing ones. If you’re an economic developer worried about main street businesses or how to manage business retention and expansion in the age of business transitions, you’re not going to want to miss this episode.


Alison Anderson, Founder and CEO, Succession Matching

Dan Ohler, Professional Relationship Coach & Employee Ownership Specialist at Dan and Carol Ohler, Relationships by Design

The webinar took place Wednesday, March 16th

Finding Win-Wins: the when, where, and why of partnerships

Partnerships can bring overworked and short-staffed economic development offices and officers a lot of value and capacity. But not all partnerships are of the same quality, and some can bring more headaches than they’re worth. Watch this insightful discussion about when to seek out partners, what to look out for in a partnership, and why you might choose one partner over another.

Featuring: Bev Thornton, Executive Director, Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance and Sandy Elzinga, Manager of Community Economic Development, Community Futures Boundary

Hosted by Heather Hallgrimson, Business Development Lead for Co-operatives First, on November 17th, 2021.

Investment, funding and financing: Finding money for economic development

As economic developers, it may often feel like you have to beg, steal, or borrow to get the money you need to do economic development projects. In this webinar, we speak with a panel of economic development professionals who’ve been through it all. Watch it now to learn how they manage to finance projects and the strategies they used to find the money they needed to get projects funded.

Featuring: Lauren Johnson, Economic Development Officer for the Town of Shaunavon and Lana Cowling-Mason, General Manager for Community Futures West Interlake.

Hosted by Heather Hallgrimson, Business Development Lead for Co-operatives First

Arts, Culture, and Economic Development

Art and economic development may not seem like the most natural of strategic partners, but rural communities are turning to arts and culture to attract visitors and businesses alike. In this recorded webinar, Heather Hallgrimson, Business Development Lead for Co-operatives First, speaks with three experienced economic development professionals who have leveraged arts and culture in their communities to promote their hometown advantage.

Fostering Innovation in Rural Communities

Heather Hallgrimson, Business Development Lead for Co-operatives First, and two economic development professionals explore ways to foster innovation in a region through community economic development strategies.

Remote Workers and Covid-19 Trends Impacting Economic Developers

Heather Hallgrimson, Business Development Lead for Co-operatives First, and two economic development professionals dig into how trends set in motion by the pandemic are impacting economic development and discuss how to respond.

Regional Synergies Webinar Series

In this discussion series, Co-operatives First speaks with business and community leaders that have formed regional partnerships. In particular, we explore rural and Indigenous partnerships across western Canada. The goal is to discover how members of neighbouring communities come together to share resources, knowledge, and a vision to create opportunities where not only the individual community, but the region can share in the benefits of working together.

Episode 1: South Island Prosperity Partnership

For the first webinar in the series, we sat down with leaders from South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP).

SIPP is an alliance of over 70 public and private-sector partners in Greater Victoria, including 11 local governments, nine First Nations, three post-secondary institutions, nine industry associations and nonprofits, and more than 30 major employers. SIPP’s goal is to bolster the region’s economic and social prosperity. To do this, they create high-quality, household-sustaining jobs, so that more families can afford to live, work and build a life in the region.

The webinar took place on December 8th, 2021.


Kear Porttris, South Island Prosperity Partnership Board Director
Director, Indigenous Relations, QM Environmental

Elysia Glover, Manager of Strategic Partnerships, South Island Prosperity Partnership

Episode 2: Prince Albert Regional Economic Development Alliance

Prince Albert Saskatchewan, known as the Gateway to the North, has a long history with Indigenous communities, not only in the vicinity but to communities throughout Northern Saskatchewan. Through a partnership to generate economic activity, the City of Prince Albert and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation have built a relationship and continue to create business opportunities that are mutually beneficial.

Please watch the discussion with Gary Merasty, CEO of Peter Ballantyne Group of Companies and Ashley Charles, CEO of the Prince Albert Regional Economic Development Alliance and learn what opportunities the partnership is creating and how they approach relationship building.


Gary Merasty

Gary is the Chief Executive Officer for the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Group of Companies (PBGOC). He brings years of diverse leadership experience gained from senior roles leading northern enterprises serving two terms as Grand Chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council and as a Member of Parliament. He has also sat on numerous for-profit and non-profit boards ranging from a multi-billion dollar publicly traded board to a community-based board focused on mobilizing northern and Indigenous talent into our Canadian workforce. Gary is originally from and raised in the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation community of Pelican Narrows in northeastern Saskatchewan.

Ashley Charles


Ashley is a well-known advocate for creating economic development opportunities and serves as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for PAREDA (Prince Albert Regional Economic Development Alliance) connecting City, Municipality and First Nations in fulfilling the PAREDA vision which is long term, shared economic prosperity across the Prince Albert region.

Before Ashley joined PAREDA, she served in various capacities revolving around Community Economic Development in areas of Education and Training, Human Resource Management, Management Consultant and General Management predominately in the Natural Resource and retail sectors. A key focus of her work has been social responsibility to improve relations with and for the benefit of the Indigenous communities in Northern Saskatchewan with Cameco, Silver Standards Resources and SaskPower.

Ashley earned a Business Administration diploma through a joint partnership program between the U of S and U of R. She then continued her education to obtain a Master of Business Administration (MBA) through Cape Breton University, specializing in Community Economic Development. Ashley is a proud mother of two.

“Heather and the team at Co-operatives First are top-notch. Not only their knowledge but their understanding of the project. They have truly helped us along every step of the way. Their timely response and knowledge of the steps are extraordinary. They are forthcoming with information. This is one of the most knowledgeable and friendliest teams I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

Weyburn Theatre

“Co-operatives First made the process of establishing our Artisan Co-operative a very clear and easy process. The expanse of available tools and resources provided by Co-operatives First answers many questions and lightens the workload. Greatly appreciate having the connections made with Trista and Kyle, they keep the co-operative moving forward.”

Nehiyawaskiy Indigenous Peoples Art Co-op

“Our experience working with the Co-operatives First team was absolutely fabulous. The staff was accommodating, knowledgeable and patient. It was truly a breath of fresh air to have such a wealth of skill and resources available to a non-profit. They were invaluable to our successful launch!”

Heart Linked Community Services Cooperative

“Working with Co-operatives First was fantastic! We are still new to the cooperative world, and we relied heavily on their advice and expertise when drafting our rules/bylaws, and our memorandum of association. The team has experience with many different cooperative models, so they provided advice on what has and hasn’t worked for other cooperatives. We wouldn’t have been able to incorporate without their help!”

Ananda Cooperative

“We have had a very positive experience with everyone at Co-operatives First. They have helped us in multiple ways. Right from the first step in knowing how to incorporate, how to set our business and offering ideas for us to help steer us in the right direction plus allowing us to really make our own decisions. If our decisions go off track, they have gently guided us back to where we needed to be. The Co-operatives first guys are always eager to answer questions, and give ideas to us that got us off the ground.”

South East Butcher Block