Thursday, August 05, 2010

Economic Development in the northwest: Finishing school for NDI interns

While we haven't learned much background about our new Economic Development Officer in Prince Rupert from the city's council or administrative staff, thanks to the Northern Development Initiative Trust website, we're getting a glimpse into the path to the local office for the recent hire to the department.

Derek Baker as we outlined on the blog was hired on by the city in July, and he appears to be the start of a wave of former interns at NDI that have sought out and found employment across Northern BC.

Also joining Mr. Baker on the front lines of economic development in the Northwest is Evan Van Dyk, the brother of Donny Van Dyk the recent Liberal candidate for the legislature for Terrace , Evan is also a former intern with NDI, and was recently named as EDO for Terrace's Economic Development office.

Both Mr. Baker and Mr. Van Dyk are featured prominently on the NDI website, which features biographies of both and the work that they were involved with while at the Northern Development Trust.

The NDI website outlines the basic principles of its internship program and highlights the impact that it is having on communities across Northern British Columbia.

Northern Development’s Internship program is a unique initiative focused on identifying talented business graduates from northern educational institutions that are seeking careers in local government and rural economic development. The Internship provides a unique immersed program of training and experience that supports local governments in the region with a resource for recruiting qualified economic development professionals. The program was established earlier this year and is already linking the majority of internships with full-time, permanent Economic Development Officer positions in the region.

A full review of the  Intern program can be found here.

The decision to hire on staff from the intern program, appears to indicate a shift of focus by municipal governments across Northern BC.

Rather than seek out experienced personnel with a track record in the economic development field as in the past, instead, there is apparent agreement that selecting the interns of NDI is the best course of action for economic development, focused  it seems on the knowledge of the NDI program's grant writing procedures.

The process of selection was seemingly a rather internal affair with the city, very little information came forward when the previous EDO Nellie Cheng left the city's employ and likewise, we never heard much about the process during the selection process that eventually led to Mr. Baker's hiring.

With the exception of a short notice on the city's website after his hiring, we still have little knowledge as to what the focus of Economic development will be going forward from the departure of Ms. Cheng

How the shift from the era of the more established  Economic Development officer to the more youthful hiring of the NDI intern  translates into actual economic development remains to be seen,  but considering the nature of the city's economic situation at the moment it's a shift of focus that will  be judged by results over the next few years.


Nancy Thompson said...

This blogger sounds a little upset about the choice of a recent intern as economic development officer. I have just two "look on the bright side" observations:

1. It's not necessarily a bad thing to have someone without a lot of experience. An ability to pay attention to people's real needs and to listen genuinely are as important as a track record established in the days when getting companies to move from Point A to Point B was relatively easy.

2. It's just fine for a newly hired executive to take some time to assess the current situation and get to know and understand all the players, not to mention all the past steps and missteps in economic development. Do you want someone who comes in and makes rash decisions affecting the future of your town? Economic development is a process, and a methodical approach to it isn't necessarily a sign of bad things to come.

I'm not condoning the air of secrecy surrounding appointments, but simply pointing out some possibly beneficial aspects of what seems to be worrying the writer.

. said...

First thanks for taking the time to offer up a comment on the post, it's always a welcome thing to have some participation along the way here.

As for your thoughts, I'm not particularly upset at the prospect of an intern from NDI taking the helm of the local EDO, just curious as to how the City came to it's decision.

I did find it interesting that both Prince Rupert and Terrace chose to go that route at the same time, coincidences always tend to raise more questions than answers are provided for, so it tweaked our interest as they say.

However, there is a bit of background on our local office that needs to be cleared up before folks around here feel comfortable with any choice of council.

The local EDO has been a bit of a revolving door of late, perhaps that's normal for such positions and with your background in the field as explained on your website, perhaps you could offer up comment on that idea.

For here though, we still haven't heard why the most recent EDO left, after a bit of fanfare upon arrival about experience and all that.

So it's a legitimate question to wonder if the city has changed direction on the EDO and what that direction might be.

Actually any information from the city about where they see Economic Development going would be a welcome thing. Which is the main thrust of the post.

Thanks for the contribution, feel free to keep the dialogue going for us.