The day kicked off with a warm and inclusive atmosphere, as participants were greeted by the emcee for the event, Jay Amer, Executive Director of the Ontario East Economic Development Commission (OEEDC). Jay set the tone by emphasizing the importance of partnerships such as the one between CFEO and OEEDC, and how working closely with Community Futures helps to achieve the shared goal of fostering vibrant rural economies.
The morning sessions commenced with introductory speaker Jeremy Laurin, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Transformation at Loyalist College. Jeremy, along with Kurstin Salisbury, Research Coordinator, and Laurie Caouette, Industry Partnership Officer, highlighted how applied research and innovation contribute to fruitful partnerships between industry, academia, and government. The discussion underscored the significance of fostering innovation to drive economic growth in the region.
Following the applied research and innovation overview from Loyalist College, Michelle Cathers, SOFII Program Manager for the CFEO Network, provided an insightful program review of the Southern Ontario Fund for Investment in Innovation (SOFII) delivered by CFEO. Attendees gained valuable insights into how SOFII provides non-dilutive funding to innovative SMEs in both rural and urban communities across the region, empowering these businesses to scale their operations and drive economic development.
Karen Fischer, Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor at Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), then took the stage to give a keynote talk and delve into the crucial aspects of Community Economic Development and how the partnership between Community Futures and OMAFRA contributes to regional economic development strategies. Karen's expertise and passion for building vibrant rural communities shone through, as she shared valuable strategies to retain and expand businesses while supporting local rural sectors.
Sophia Rubimbwa, Director of Inclusivity and Community Development at the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), welcomed attendees to the Annual Meeting portion with warmth and appreciation for their collaborative efforts. Sophia emphasized the significance of strong leadership and cohesive visions for future success in the region.
The CFEO Annual Meeting followed, where Wendy Stone, CFEOs Board Chair, led discussions on the strategic goals and achievements of the CFDCs, outlining a roadmap for future growth and prosperity.
As the event drew to a close, Peter Gaffney, retiring Secretary-Treasurer, shared heartfelt closing remarks, expressing gratitude to the participants for their dedication to economic development in Eastern Ontario.
The day was filled with engaging presentations, meaningful conversations, and valuable networking opportunities. The event captured the essence of partnership, collaboration, accountability, and the commitment to supporting one another's success. The Community Futures Eastern Ontario Meeting of the Members at Loyalist College exemplified the collective passion and dedication of its members to fostering economic growth and opportunities, ensuring that rural communities in the region will continue to thrive.
The CFEO network looks forward to another year of fruitful collaborations and making a positive impact on the economic landscape of Eastern Ontario.
"The support rural businesses and organizations receive from Community Futures Development Corporations through the Community Futures Eastern Ontario Network is key to the future growth and success of the region. The tools that CFDCs provide rural businesses drive economic growth and create good jobs. By continuing our support for CFDCs across southern Ontario, our Government is investing in the potential of rural communities and ensuring that they will continue to thrive." - The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.