Economic Developers Council of Ontario
Formed in 1957, the Economic Developers Council of Ontario provides the voice of economic development for communities across the province. The Economic Developers Council of Ontario lives by its mandate to offer a network support of ideas, information, and resources to more than 600 economic development members across the province.
A growing force at the municipal level, economic development offices produce and promote local measures and strategic initiatives that encourage corporate partnerships, land development, investment attraction, job creation, and business retention and expansion, working in association with the Economic Developers Council of Ontario to foster economic prosperity.
The Economic Developers Council of Ontario reflects the advances and growth within the role of economic development. Heather Lalonde, Executive Director of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario, told The Canadian Business Journal, “Our primary mission is to increase the capacity of economic development professionals across Ontario through communication, professional development, and events such as our annual conference. We promote the economic development profession across the province.”
In essence, the role of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario is to provide its membership with measure-based investment attraction information, at both the professional development level as well as its national economic development conference. The Economic Developers Council of Ontario provides its membership with popular and leading-edge topics that highlight discussion at the municipal affairs level. As Lalonde summarized, “We provide information to communities. We are a virtual portal where we can direct people to municipalities, like an information conduit.”
The Economic Developers Council of Ontario website reads, “Members of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario are regularly exposed to new ideas in the ever-expanding field of economic development.
“Our members’ constant contact with all phases of the development process makes them valued individuals within the development network. Through this interchange of ideas, members of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario bring a high degree of expertise and awareness to the complex business of community development. These skills are available to industrial, commercial, and tourism enterprises as well as municipal policymakers who wish to broaden their community’s tax base and employment opportunities.”
The Economic Developers Council of Ontario offers training programs that emphasize investment readiness of municipal business. It also recognizes that the tourism sector is a key strength across the province.
“Ontario has lots of visitors and we are able to offer investment opportunities to potential foreign investors,” Lalonde explained. “We have focused on our regional research projects, as well as our regional strategic planning training, which is focused solely on data analysis because understanding your community through data analysis is the backbone of creating strategic plans for economic development.”
Following the economic downturn of 2008-09, Economic Developers Council of Ontario members established critical strategic initiatives and revitalization plans in response to the recession that took a toll on communities across Ontario. Many rural communities, reliant on industries like the manufacturing sector, investigated their local economic bases to recognize their strengths and to move forward with a sustainable local economy.
“It really forced the hand into diversifying business bases, in that a lot of single-industry towns really suffered when the whole automotive industry crashed,” Lalonde said.
A recent change to the membership structure of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario saw the association shift to corporate memberships, resulting in growth of the membership base and a stronger organizational overall.
“We lead the pack in Canada as far as having professional economic developers,” Lalonde concluded. “We are very fortunate that we have some of the best in the profession that choose to live and work in Ontario. They are quite engaged in our organization. We rely heavily on volunteers and without them we wouldn’t be as strong as we are. Our members are our strength. Economic Development Officers are really focused and committed people and that lends well to the growth of communities across Ontario.”