For the past three years, she has been working to set goals for the council, and helped to provide opportunities.
Deb Hadwen has been the Economic Development Officer since 2008 but she is now moving on.
An integral part of the workings of the local government since 2008, her position was key to helping to guide the community through some tough economic times.
“It was the roller coaster ride of wondering where the next dollar was going to come from,” she said.
Council sets priorities, and as the economy changes locally, so do council’s priorities, according to Hadwen.
From council’s general priorities, the EDO then works to develop specific goals and a plan to get there.
One of her first acts in the position, when she first came from Watson Lake in the Yukon, was to introduce herself to the different community groups and get to know their mandates and where they had shortages. As Economic Development Officer, she then worked to find ways to help groups get more of what they needed or to connect them with further resources, whether those resources are funding, people or infrastructure.
Then she went from there.
During the economic downturn, with three mills shut down, Hadwen had her work cut out for her, but was grateful for some of the funding which had already been applied for prior to her arrival and which came through to help rebrand the community with the new logo and positioning statement.
The position also involves working with a grant writer to help facilitate funding opportunities to all local groups and businesses, is the first point of contact for industry or businesses making inquiries into the community for opportunities, and helps to connect service organizations and people.
As EDO, she was also was on the Terrane Sustainability Committee, was a district liaison for the Tourism Steering Committee, was the district representative on the Regional District Economic Development Committee, and helped to found the Community Development Foundation, which is a local pot of money for people to contribute to and the interest will be used to help out locally.
“As the amount of money goes up, there will be more and more money going out to the community,” she explained.
In her three years, as the economy has picked back up and things look more promising, the position has changed with the times.
After the insecurity of the downturn, there was a $2 million cash infusion from the government in 2009 to put people back to work on local projects so they could then re-qualify for employment insurance. So there were those projects to coordinate. Once the Mt. Milligan Mine was put forward, the district began looking at what kind of infrastructure they might need, and what kind of impacts there might be from the mine.
Now the mine is going forward, and she has been working with more and more businesses enquiring about coming into the area.
“I think it’s important that they get a well-rounded view of the community,” she said.
A diverse community, she appreciated the different ethnic groups within the community.
“It’s nice to know that people respect that,” she said.
But it’s hard to meet everyone’s expectations all the time, and this was the most difficult part of the job. “Some people’s expectations exceed what we’re able to do realistically,” she said.
It was a great job though, and she really felt like she grew and learned a lot about facilitating positive change.
The community endeared itself to Hadwen during her tenure as E.D.O. and she appreciates the values of the Fort.
“If there’s ever a need in this community, this community is whole-heartedly supportive,” she said.
She also loves the wealth of natural amenities the area offers. “There is so much, it’s so diverse.”
Hadwen is returning to Ontario for family reasons for the summer but will reassess in the fall whether or not she will return to the Fort.
The position of EDO is in the process of being filled, and she hopes the next person can “orchestrate the changes” and deal with some rapid fluctuation during the upswing.
“You have to be open minded and you have to be willing to change, you have to be willing to meet with a wide variety of people and you have to be able to listen to people,” she said.
Hadwen had a work of advice for the next EDO.
“Take the opportunity to attend as many functions and events … to get to know the community,” she said.
But she also said this shouldn’t be hard, as the people are friendly and open and they “make it easy.”