Ever wonder why Regional Enterprise Networks (RENs) exist in Nova Scotia?

RENs are the result of an independent panel of economic development and business experts, who were asked to recommend a new approach to economic development in the province. They published their report in 2012. (It was called “Renewing Regional Economic Development in Nova Scotia” and you can read it here). Our Valley REN was formed in 2014, when neighbouring municipalities and Glooscap First Nation came together with the province to support regional economic development.

What makes RENs different from their predecessors? For one thing, the 12 former Regional Development Authorities received funding from all three levels of government. We are not funded by the federal government. More importantly, in the REN model, there is a clear mandate to view economic development through a business lens. Business leaders have created the strategy and government is removed from the day-to-day operations of each REN.

Our organization is led by a volunteer, private-sector board, comprised of leaders in business and economic development (the strategists). Our board is appointed by a Liaison and Oversight Committee, representing the province, municipalities in the region, and Glooscap First Nation (the funders). The Chief Executive Officer (me!) is hired by the board to implement the strategy. There are five RENs in the province, with plans for a sixth.

The Valley REN was the first to incorporate in March of 2014. Its signing partners were Glooscap First Nation, the municipalities of the County of Kings and the District of West Hants, and the towns of Berwick, Bridgetown, Hantsport, Kentville, Middleton, Windsor and Wolfville. Through municipal restructuring, the towns of Bridgetown and Hantsport have been dissolved and are therefore not members. The inaugural board included seven business leaders and two ex-officio members, who were Chief Administration Officers from our partnering municipalities.

Since coming together, the board has been building a strong foundation for the future. They value evidenced-based decisions. Therefore, in the early days, they invested time and resources to gather the necessary data to understand the region, before creating the economic strategy. They also considered what experience and skills they required of their CEO. In the fall of 2014, I was delighted to be chosen as CEO of the Valley REN. The volunteer board finally had a full-time, dedicated person to set up the operations of the Valley REN and lead it to the next stage.

Please join me next week for Part 2 of Our Journey Here, where I will tell the story of how we built our regional economic development strategy.