Looking back at the last few messages from the EDCO Presidents, two things are immediately clear - I’ve never read the Letter from the EDCO President before and we are all terrible at predicting the future (likely because we’re hopelessly optimistic by nature). Also of note is that we’ve all used the Covid catch phrases of “uncertainty”, “unprecedented” and “new normal” so often that what is in fact “normal” remains debatable and we seem to have forgotten what we were certain that the precedent really was.
But I think that’s ok.
Maybe the resulting reset isn’t such a bad thing. If change is the one constant through all of this, I’d say that it’s been incredibly encouraging to see that our members, along with our profession as a whole, have remained not just relevant, but resilient and restorative.
In 2023, EDCO continues to serve over 1,100 members who represent nearly 250 organizations. That ever-present collective creativity and passion for community that exists in all that we do has not been lost on EDCO as the Board and staff worked hard to transition to new ways of providing support to the membership. One drastically different path towards membership support that EDCO went out on a limb to provide and that warrants some major highlighting is the My Main Street program.
To date, My Main Street has connected with over 3,000 businesses across Ontario, has hosted online training for over 1,400 attendees, has offered detailed market research to over 1,000 businesses in 65 communities and has provided over $4.8 million in funding support that’s leveraged an additional $8.9 million in private business investment, with more to come. The dedicated team working to support the program, along with all of the Main Street Ambassadors should be exceptionally proud of the work that’s been done in the hearts of our communities and we as an organization should take a certain level of pride in working with our partners to make it happen.
I would like to take this opportunity to both thank and congratulate former EDCO CEO Heather Lalonde, who recently took on a new challenge as the Development Commissioner for the Municipality of Strathroy-Caradoc. Her work over the last quarter of a century was foundational and served to raise the profile of our profession, while providing support to thousands of members. That continuity in leadership is rare and is a big part of what brought EDCO to where we are today.
I also want to sincerely thank Stephanie and Johanne, who continue to serve our Board and membership at an exceptional level. To the Board, the Liaison Directors and all those who volunteer with one of EDCO’s many committees, the energy and effort that is brought to all that we do is tremendous. The time that you dedicate to the betterment of Economic Development in Ontario is very much appreciated and it is truly an honour to be a part of this group.
Despite all the challenges we’ve all faced in our vastly different roles across the Province, this past year has been one of notable achievements, both for our organization and for our members. I am proud to say that EDCO is stronger than ever and that we remain committed to our mission to foster economic prosperity in the province of Ontario.
I will (perhaps boldly) offer a prediction that we are over the hump of the initial negative impacts of the pandemic. We’ve shifted from toilet paper shortages to rationing our lettuce as a means of dealing with inflation, on to trying to explain the counterintuitive recession where everyone’s employed and businesses are expanding. The next obvious step should be the light at the end of the seemingly never-ending tunnel that I expect we’re all striving to achieve. Needless to say, there’s plenty of work ahead as we serve in both a supportive and leadership position to help our communities and Ontario as a whole to not just achieve pre-Covid levels, but to take hold of the EDCO Conference theme of Transformation and enter a new realm of possibilities (hence the hopelessly optimistic nature noted earlier). I’m very much looking forward to an amazing year in 2023.
President, Economic Developers Council of Ontario