Dear EDCO Members, Colleagues and Partners:
These are interesting times in economic development, as our industry diversifies and changes at a rapid pace. As advocates for the profession, EDCO presents an exciting opportunity to stay at the forefront of those changes and work with stakeholders to best take advantage of new and emerging technologies, trends and the transformation of our professional workforce.
Economic development is always a difficult job to explain to people: even as professional practitioners, we sometimes struggle to explain exactly what we do. The scope of what an economic developer is now reaches far into other sectors and really emphasizes the collaborative nature of the work we do. With our traditional iterations of the profession, we welcome small business developers, tourism and marketing experts, employment services providers, and community economic developers to encompass what a 21st-century economic developer is.
It presents an exciting opportunity to grow skillsets and develop new collaborations with stakeholders at all levels. Look around the room at any event and you’ll see a diverse group of economic development professionals. In addition to senior level members, we are just beginning to see the first waves of those who specifically are educated in advanced economic development straight out of high school and into a growing number of universities offering programming. We have an amazing opportunity to work with our new and experienced professionals to both mentor and learn from them as we move forward; I’d encourage you to reach out to new professionals through the Emerging Professional Network to get to know some of our best and brightest.
Likewise, as a northern Ontario economic developer, I’m reminded of the size of Ontario as a whole – Ontario’s landmass is the size of France and Spain combined, shorelines four of the five Great Lakes and spans multiple times zones. EDCO, like most provincial organizations faces unique challenges in delivering services that meet the needs of all of our members, and as new technologies and emerging sectors continue to highlight contrasting paths forward of Ontario – be they northern/southern, urban/rural or resource/emerging tech – we as practitioners must be willing to work collaboratively with our partners from the entire province to ensure we all move forward together. In particular, EDCO has a role to play in Ontario’s future by building member capacity, advancing the profession, and supporting municipalities to foster economic prosperity.
That said, no matter your role or your location, as members of EDCO you have an opportunity to play a role in how we operate as an organization. I encourage you to get involved with committees, participate in professional development programs including EDCO’s annual conference, and share your ideas for new programming with EDCO’s Board of Directors. It’s an incredibly rewarding way to connect to an amazing network of fellow practitioners that you may not otherwise have the opportunity to.
I look forward to working with the Board, EDCO members and volunteers, provincial ministry partners, and other stakeholders to advance the economic development profession and to continue to build an inclusive association.
Gord Knowles, EcD, CEcD
President, Economic Developers Council of Ontario