EDAC conference in Iqaluit

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Economic developers learn about northern business development challenges

Canadian Design and Construction Report staff writer

Representatives from communities and regions across Canada gathered at Canada’s most northernmost capital city, Iqaluit, Nunavut, in October for the Economic Developers Association of Canada (EDAC) annual conference, sharing in some northern hospitality and – for many – a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Iqaluit on Baffin Island can be reached only by air (and in the summer, a cargo sealift).  First Air provided highly discounted airline fares for EDAC members, but northern costs are significantly higher than elsewhere and transit/travel times presented problems for some members, so relatively few delegates attended the annual event, held in a different Canadian community each year. (Last year’s conference was in Peterborough, Ontario.)

Nevertheless, delegates enjoyed some exceptional hospitality and gained insights into the far north’s special economic development challenges; co-ordinating Inuit cultural respect and the fragile natural environment with northern tundra and remote communities’ incredible resource and tourism potential.

While, not surprisingly, seminars and programs within the conference emphasized northern themes, delegates also learned about other topics and challenges.

For example, Ron Gaudet from the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corp., described  “why the region, the province and the federal government have made an unprecedented investment in Canada’s largest and most expensive road bed ever constructed in the country – the Windsor Essex Parkway.”

The roadway is designed to connect a new Canadian-government funded bridge to Michigan, which has encountered incredible opposition from the existing Ambassador Bridge’s private owners.

Among other speakers, Ret. Gen. Rick Hillier spoke about leadership in troubled times and Olympic rowing gold medalist Marnie McBean shared her experiences in setting and achieving goals.

EDAC recognized marketing and economic development achievements and provided tangible resources to help members measure and improve their own communities’ business climate.

Former EDAC president Dave Paul (Brockville, Ontario’s economic development officer) says he expects several hundred delegates will attend the 2013 conference in St. John’s Newfoundland.
The 2013 conference theme,Innovation on the Edge, aims to generate new ideas and seek out creative approaches for economic development locally, regionally and nationally.
“EDAC is extremely excited to be in St. John’s exactly 10 years from our last visit,” said Penny Gardiner, EDAC chief executive officer.”We anticipate the conference will be a sellout attracting Economic Development professionals from coast to coast to coast.”