New economic development officer Jennifer Moore
for Smoky River Express
It may seem a contradiction, but Jennifer Moore, the MD of Smoky River’s new economic development officer, is convinced that even in the midst of a global economic downturn, opportunities abound for growth in the Smoky Region and throughout northern Alberta.
The key, she says, is getting off the boom and bust roller coaster and building a sustainable local economy.
“Sustainability allows you to get off that boom or bust cycle,” she says, noting the need for diversification of the Peace Country’s traditional industries.
“I think we need to get more creative in how we approach agriculture,” she says. “What’s being produced here by the agriculture sector is a renewable resource with a quick turnaround. I think we need to find ways to build that value-added component (into the local economy).”
Born and raised in Williams Lake, BC, Moore has seen the value of diversification and how a multi-faceted local economy can aid in preserving the rural community.
“In Williams Lake, if there was trouble in one area (of the economy), you still had another area that would still be strong. I see the opportunity for that type of approach here.”
Moore brings 20 years of experience to her new role with the MD of Smoky River. Her work to this point has been in helping non-profit organizations realize their full potential. It was opportunity to focus on rural economic development and to be a part of a close-knit community that first attracted Moore to the position.
“Compared to here, I’m a big city girl, but I’m not a big city girl.
“Family is very important to me and I think that’s the reason this community is a good fit for me. Family seems to be a very important part of the community.”
Becoming a part of that extended family of neighbours is an appealing draw, says Moore, and something she’s already experienced.
“In a community like this, you know your neighbours and your neighbours know you. And it’s not just knowing your neighbours. You care about them.
“When I got here, my neighbours came out of their apartment and helped me unload the U-Haul. It was just amazing. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly.”
With her move to Falher complete, Moore is literally getting down to business and one of the first tasks on the agenda is developing a plan of attack.
“I’ll be looking at strategic planning, so that we have a solid plan for one year, three years and hopefully five years.”
She equates the journey toward local economic sustainability with embarking on a road trip.
“You’ve got to have a map,” she said. “If you don’t have a road map, you don’t know how to get where you are going.”
And having the help of some local navigators is also an important part of Moore’s strategic planning process.
“Everyone plays a role in economic development,” she said. “It’s important to get that input from the community in building your plan. By getting that input (the community) is more likely to buy-in to what you are doing.”
Moore said that the process of economic development often requires the leadership of people who don’t see themselves as leaders.
“I would encourage everyone to be a leader in their own corner of the world. If you have an idea, talk to people about it. Talk to me.”
Taking a good idea to the next level is key to moving a local economy forward and Moore said it’s important to recognize that development doesn’t have to focus around “the next big project”.
“I would encourage slow and steady growth that is sustainable.”
While the Smoky Region has the resources, both natural and human, to build a strong economy upon, she said the region needs to be willing to seize upon the opportunities. She points to the recent experience of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics as an example of what will drive the renewal of rural communities.
“The Olympics are a tremendous example we can look at. Canadians are humble...but during the Olympics we were not afraid to stand up and be proud of what we had done and what our athletes had done.
“I think we need to see more of that. We have to find that trigger to reignite that passion.”
Jennifer Moore has just arrived to the area. She is the new Economic Development Officer in the region.