What is your line of expertise?
After working over 35 years with Federal, Provincial, Municipal and First Nations governments, I consider myself a lifelong public servant. I have been fortunate enough to work my entire career in rural Newfoundland and Labrador with a primary focus of supporting entrepreneurs and community groups in business and community economic development. Federally I was a Field Office Manager in the beautiful community of Rocky Harbour (Gros Morne National Park) and with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), I was Manager of Field Operations. Essentially, that means I managed ACOA’s program delivery functions in rural NL. In addition to that function, I held the title of Coordinator of Official Languages (OLA), meaning I liaised with all Francophone entrepreneurs and community groups seeking assistance from the Agency.
After retiring from ACOA in 2012, I took on the role of Industry Liaison Officer (ILO) for the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) and Springboard until 2014 and then held roles as Town Manager for my hometown of Kippens, Consultant for the AVP Research – Grenfell – MUN and Economic Development Officer for the Qalipu First Nation before returning to the College in early 2018 as Director of Partnerships, Entrepreneurship and Community Engagement (DPEC).
What do you do in your current role at CNA?
My title at CNA is the Director of Partnerships, Entrepreneurship and Community Engagement. As such, it is my job to work with all players in the Partnerships, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (PIE) team to strengthen existing external relationships and advance opportunities with partners in the innovation, business and community ecosystem. This role links me directly to the front line of activity with the College’s Office of Applied Research (OARI), specifically with our College Innovation Network (CIN) initiative.
What are some of the challenges you face in this role?
Newfoundland and Labrador is a large province and our population is distributed over hundreds of communities, some of which are urban, but most are in rural settings. While we do have Campuses in 17 communities and thus a strong presence across the province, the needs of entrepreneurs and communities are diverse and challenging for practitioners and support agencies mandated to assist these clients with their innovation challenges. Therefore establishing and maintaining strong relationships with partners in the innovation and business support ecosystem is crucial to the evolution of the economy and the College’s role in the economy.
What are the misconceptions around doing business and innovation in rural Newfoundland and Labrador?
There are misconceptions about doing business in any province. In our case, some may think that because NL has a significant land mass, most of which is rural, a population split between urban communities and rural ones, some on an island connected to Canada and Labrador by ferry, and Labrador connected to Canada through Quebec, we may not have many examples of successful innovation initiatives. On the contrary, innovation is a way of doing things here and many of our strongest sectors benefit from innovative initiatives and entrepreneurs in rural NL, especially in the mining, forestry, aquaculture, agriculture, tourism and oil and gas sectors.
What are the benefits of being a Springboard member?
There are numerous benefits for the College to be a Springboard member.
Springboard is unique in its support for member institutions and their representatives who work together to advance the innovation agenda in Atlantic Canada. Being a member of this network enables each participant institution to take and share as much as they need from the network, such as new initiatives, posted partnership opportunities and IM funds.
For the College, the support received through the FTE allocation enables us to pursue incremental opportunities supporting the Springboard and College mandates. Furthermore, the College benefits from the ability to use Springboard’s support as leverage to get our researchers out and meeting companies in rural Newfoundland and Labrador and other parts of Atlantic Canada. We’ve used the IM fund successfully in the past resulting in significant industry support for our innovation and applied research agenda.
Another understated advantage is sitting down with other Network members to compare notes and talk about opportunities concerning how we can partner in the future. This is becoming increasingly commonplace at Network meetings, often leading to follow up conversations between Network members to learn from each other’s best practices.