Vern May officially stepped into his new role as Executive Director of Portage Regional Economic Development (PRED) today.
It was his first day in the office and he says everything's been going great. "Both the PRED board and the community have been very welcoming of me," says May. "We're in the middle of the big unpack at home because we did our move over the weekend, but in terms of where we're at in the PRED office, we're very excited about some of the projects on the horizon and getting rolling very quickly on them."
May says the City's slogan couldn't be more appropriate in terms of being a city of possibilities. "The census numbers show growth and that's really positive. Not every jurisdiction in the province can say that this week. So while we look at Roquette on the horizon and census growth and a number of other things, there are other communities in the province scratching their heads and thinking about population losses and how they can turn it around."
"In terms of specific projects it's too early for me to speak to any," adds May. "The most important thing right now in terms of the PRED office, because the position has been vacant for a while, is to figure out how we best fit with some of the existing agencies we work with. Whether it's the Chamber of Commerce, or the City or RM, or the PCRC, we'll be meeting with a lot of people involved with those organizations over the next few weeks to find out what the history of their relationship with PRED is and how can we best meet our mandate, and be a good community partner at the same time."
One of the larger misconceptions about economic development positions like May's is that it's a one person operation. "Really we're a facilitator. It requires the participation of the RM, the City, the chamber, the province, and sometimes the federal government. As we saw with Roquette, it was a multi-layer agreement made to bring that deal together. Whether it's business retention and expansion at a grassroots level or helping local entrepreneurs, there are a lot of people involved with that and I find myself in a role where I help people connect the dots rather than leading the charge."
In a couple of days, May says they'll have all the tools required for the job like a computer and a phone, but the work officially began today.