The Village of Merrickville-Wolford welcomed Jeff Mcnamee to the municipality at the beginning of last week, as the Village’s first ever Economic Development Officer (EDO). The position has been made possible by a Rural Economic Development (RED) grant from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), obtained earlier this year. The roughly $98,000 grant will pay for approximately half the salary of the full-time EDO for two years.
Jeff comes to the position with a wealth of knowledge and many Municipal, Provincial and Federal, private and public sector connections. He has worked at several municipalities across Canada, including Ottawa, gathering input from diverse groups and setting priorities for strategic development plans. Jeff has experience implementing Intelligent Community strategies, which help connect municipalities through data and local knowledge to create more connected communities. He has also worked on the implementation of Precision Agriculture and Autonomous Vehicle evolution in both urban and rural settings, which he hopes to bring to Wolford to bolster their strong agricultural presence in the area. “We need to find ways to support them,” he says. “I am more than happy to throw on a pair of welly boots and meet whoever need be.”
Jeff also has experience working with entrepreneurial companies which might be interested in making Merrickville-Wolford their home base. “These days, companies can work from anywhere,” he says. “I know a lot of smart companies who would love Merrickville-Wolford.” His long-term goal would be to bring these businesses to Merrickville and have them grow, creating jobs for the next generation.
His primary goal, at the moment, is getting to know the Municipality and its stakeholders. He will be working closely with the Economic Development Committee, businesses, and the agricultural community to outline the priorities for the municipality moving forward. “I want to get a base line of where we are today,” he says. “I am not here as the expert. I want to weigh all opportunities. Create early successes, but also longer-range plans.”
Mayor David Nash says he is thrilled to have Jeff on board. “I would love for him to build a business case to have a (permanent) full-time EDO,” he says. “Measurables will be important. We need to see what kind of results we see.”
Having had a successful international career in business and economic development, Jeff is excited to be in Merrickville-Wolford where he feels he can make a difference. “Merrickville-Wolford has so many assets and so much potential,” he says. “Everyone here has [the municipality’s] best interests at heart.”