In this second blog in a three-part series, CEO Kelly Ells explains how the Valley REN created an economic development strategy for the region. You can read the first part here.

CEO Kelly Ells with Valley REN board members (l-r) Scott Roberts, Scott Hearn and Don Abbey at a planning meeting in 2015.

CEO Kelly Ells with board members (l-r) Scott Roberts, Scott Hearn and Don Abbey at a planning meeting in 2015.

Where to start? You don’t know what you don’t know. What are the pieces needed to create a solid regional economic development strategy? Who do we consult? Who is not represented or missing from the discussion? These were all important considerations as we chose our path forward.

We began by developing an operational strategy based on the REN’s functions of governance, partner relations, communications and marketing, providing knowledge resources, supporting business retention and expansion, and investment attraction. This strategy, adopted in June 2015, helped the Valley REN set the direction for its role in advancing economic development in the region.

McSweeney & Associates was hired to conduct an environmental scan, create asset inventories for each of the municipalities within the Valley REN region, and develop a community profile. To complement this work, we entered into a joint project with the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education to examine our region’s “Workforce Advantage.” These two initiatives were completed in the summer of 2015.

As these projects were progressing, we met with stakeholders to validate the data and gather further insight to aid in the development of our strategic plan. These stakeholders included successful business leaders, our partners’ staff and elected officials, and associations and organizations involved in economic development activities. When formulating our strategy, we considered the region’s assets and the local, provincial and federal government’s economic development focus.

Following months of consultations and data collection, the resulting three-year Regional Economic Development Strategic Plan was presented to and approved by the Liaison and Oversight Committee in January of 2016. With the strategy in hand, and agreement from our partners, we were ready to implement.

(The third and final blog in this series will explain how we launched the strategy.)