Economic development: paddling in the same direction

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

If you haven’t received a visit from Leah Jones of the Town of Slave Lake yet, it’s probably just a matter of time. She’s been doing a lot of that sort of thing lately in her role as economic development officer. Figuring out who’s who, what’s what and what can be done to make a difference.

“It’s good!” says Jones, asked how it’s going so far. “Things are happening. We’re meeting lots of people.”

Jones – who started in the latter part of August – says part of the job in economic development is “learning who your partners are, and “making sure we’re all paddling in the same direction.”

Jones is the result of town council’s commitment to spend some money on economic development. This hadn’t been done in quite some time – at least not by the town alone. But council managed to find some money in the 2020 budget for it. Mayor Tyler Warman was its champion, repeating at meeting after meeting during the budget process that ‘doing nothing’ was unacceptable. The Warman mantra has also been about needing to see concrete results. Jones has clearly got that message.

“We want to action some things,” she says. “My job isn’t to sit at my desk and make strategy. What can we do to bring value, and make the town grow and prosper more than it is?”

Good question. Stay tuned.

Jones comes to the town after a career in various aspects of management and community development. Originally from the Dapp area, she earned a degree from the University of Alberta in agricultural economy and rural economic development. In the following years she worked for the provincial government, United Farmers of Alberta, the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation, the Calgary Stampede and the 4H Foundation of Alberta. Her places of residence included Fawcett, Calgary and Olds. She and husband Mitch raised three children – two girls and a boy. The girls are working on university degrees and their youngest (Jett Jones) is a member of the Lethbridge Hurricanes junior hockey team.

“Beautiful,” and “breathtaking” are how Jones describes the scenery hereabouts. More people should know about it, she says, which is of course part of the economic development challenge.

“We need more ways to show people this breathtaking experience,” she says.

Leah Jones

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