Who We Are

Supporting the financial, social, and individual well-being of the people, businesses and communities we serve in the Annapolis Valley

Helping the Valley grow.

With services designed to grow economic well-being and sustainability, the Valley Regional Enterprise Network is the only publicly funded organization dedicated to supporting the local economic development in the Annapolis Valley region.

Our Unique Role 

The Valley REN objectively addresses the region’s economic and business development needs.

We deliver leadership in regional economic development.

We are the boots on the ground.

We are strong regional collaborators, working with local chambers, post-secondary institutions, business associations, etc.

We are a shared service within our communities.

We are a network of networks. When you connect with the Valley REN, you get access to all the business supports within the Annapolis Valley and beyond.

Valley REN At a Glance

  •  Incorporated in March 2014.
  • Members are Glooscap First Nation, the Municipality of the County of Kings, West Hants Regional Municipality, and the Towns of Berwick, Kentville, Wolfville, and Middleton
  • Funding is provided by these members and matched by the Province of Nova Scotia through the Department of Economic Development.
  • Governed by a Liaison and Oversight Committee comprising representatives from funding partners and a Board of Directors made up of business leaders from throughout the region.

Regional Enterprise Networks

Valley REN is one of seven regional enterprise networks throughout Nova Scotia. Regional Enterprise Networks (RENs) lead a collaborative approach to economic development and supporting business growth outside HRM. 

RENs are business-led and business-facing organizations. Each REN builds on the strengths and values of its region. 

Learn more about the Nova Scotia Regional Enterprise Networks at nsrens.ca.

Our Mandate

  • Provide centralized access to regional “Valley” business and economic data, including proprietary research to assess the needs and performance of local businesses.
  • Recommend and drive Annapolis Valley regional economic development strategies and measurable growth, with a view to reflecting the needs and goals of private business, municipalities and the Province.
  • Act as “Opportunity Connectors” across the private and public sectors, so that the dreams of businesses and individuals can become a reality.
  • Serve as supporters and enablers of regional competitiveness and investment readiness, by communicating the Valley’s advantages and potential to local, provincial, national and international audiences.
  • Make a meaningful and positive impact on the Valley’s regional economic development, by demonstrating impact, progress and measurable results from within the REN organization.

Our Team

Emily Boucher, CEO

Jennifer Tufts, COO

Richelle Brown Redden, Senior Economic Development Officer

Kyle Walsh, Economic Development Officer 

Chara Gerow, Connector Program Coordinator

Nicole Ross, Communications Coordinator

Andrea Hamilton, Office Administrator

Kathleen Novelia, Immigration and Settlement Navigator

Lynn Silver, Workforce Coordinator

Adam Kemp, Tourism Sector Program Assistant


Board of Directors

Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon


Owner/Operator at Safeguard Property Management & Services

Paul is the President of Safeguard Property Management, serving all three counties of Hants, Kings and Annapolis. Originally from Paradise, Newfoundland, Paul was transferred to the Valley back in 1994 to work at Zellers in New Minas instantly falling in love with the area, never wanting to leave. Following Zellers, and before opening Safeguard in 2016, Paul worked at Staples, Home Depot and Workplace Essentials in the roles of Sales Management, Store Management and Operations.

Denis Robillard
Training Manager, Michelin (Canada)

After graduating from the University of Ottawa with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1994, Denis owned and operated a family business in powersports near Sudbury, Ontario. In 2000, Denis sold this business and joined Michelin as an Earthmover Sales Manager based in Northern Ontario. In 2005 he moved to Nova Scotia and over the next 18 years held numerous roles including industrial engineer, business unit leader, supply chain manager and industrial engineering manager. Most recently, Denis was responsible for safety at the Waterville site as well as managing risks to the plant and the environment. Denis has 14 years experience with the site management team of a major industrial site employing approximately 1,400 people. In October 2023, Denis assumed the role of Training Manager for Canada. He is passionate about ensuring that the Annapolis Valley and Nova Scotia continue to grow, offering both a wonderful lifestyle and great opportunities for the people who live here, and believes Michelin can play an important role in this endeavour.

Jessica Clahane
Senior Manager, Assurance Services, Grant Thornton LLP

Jessica, a CPA, CA, has over 12 years’ experience in public accounting practice. Through her role as an accountant and business advisor she understands many of the challenges and opportunities that present themselves to local business, from small owner/operated farms or shops to large manufacturing companies, government organizations and everything in between.

Jessica grew up and has raised three children in the Annapolis Valley and is proud to call it home. She is an active member of the community, having served on several not-for-profit boards over the years, and most recently completely a term as a Director and Past President of the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce. She is a current member of the Rotary Club of Kentville.

Jessica shares a passion for the Annapolis Valley and believes we all have a part to play in contributing to its continued prosperity.


Gerard d’Entremont
Community Innovation Lead, NSCC (Nova Scotia Community College) – Annapolis Valley Region

Gerard d’Entremont is the Community Innovation Lead with the Nova Scotia Community College Kingstec and Annapolis Valley campuses. With 21 years’ experience under his belt, he links client needs with customized training-based solutions, helping organizations increase organizational effectiveness. He holds a BA (Economics) and B.Ed. from Mount Allison University and a MEd in Educational Administration from the University of New Brunswick.

Gerard and his wife Becky live in Kentville along with their two daughters, Heather and Darcy.


Kjeld Mizpah Conyers-Steede

Principal Consultant, Catalyst Conversation Strategies

Kjeld Mizpah Conyers-Steede has over eight years of experience leading or working with community projects that build quality public policy programming and lobbying initiatives. He is passionate about addressing society’s “big hairy” policy issues and developing strategies that embrace a human-centred approach.

Kjeld Mizpah encourages guided conversations surrounding critical topics to break the cause-and-effect approach to governance. He believes that adopting a strategic foresight lens is integral to identifying the barriers surrounding community-centric policy and program development.

To achieve this, Kjeld Mizpah started Catalyst Conversation Strategies to facilitate ways to encourage collaboration and develop critical psychological safety needed to adopt innovation within organizational systems.

James Clouthier

General Manager, Old Orchard Inn

Having grown-up in the Hospitality Industry, starting at the age of 13, as a Dishwasher in a road-side motel close to his home-town of Chalk River, Ontario, James has worked and lived, from coast to coast across this beautiful country.

Spending most of his career as a Chef and F&B Manager, James made the move to hotels in 2011, joining Halifax-based Holloway Lodging. Managing a total of 5 hotels for Holloway in his 11 years with them, in Saint John, NB, Whitecourt, AB and Grande Prairie, AB, James quickly became a company leader in Employee Engagement and Human Resources.

James was presented with the opportunity to join the Old Orchard Inn, in November of 2022 and after hearing about the exciting redevelopment of this iconic NS property, by its new ownership group, he quickly accepted the offer and began the drive back to the East Coast. Graduating high school in Musquodoboit Harbour in 1994, and spending countless weekends visiting NS, from his home in NB, James is very happy to be back where hospitality happens, most naturally, Nova Scotia!

A champion for growth through collaboration, James has found himself a seat on the Board of Directors for the Valley REN, as well as their Transitional Implementation Working Committee. His hope is to see the continued growth of the Annapolis Valley as a premier tourism destination in Atlantic Canada.





Anna Redden
Director of Acadia Tidal Energy Institute , Acadia University

Anna plays a key role at Acadia in developing research policy and advancing innovative research and graduate programs. Working with industry and community partners, government agencies, and other research institutions, she contributed to the Valley REN’s Renewable Energy Sector Table in 2016.

Anna has science degrees in Biology from Acadia University (BSc Hon, MSc) and Memorial University (Ph.D.). Her postdoctoral studies and first faculty appointments were held in Australia. Anna returned to Nova Scotia and Acadia in 2005 as Associate Professor in Biology and Director of the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research.

In response to the rising interest in tidal energy development in the Bay of Fundy in the late 2000s, Dr. Redden co-led the establishment of the Fundy Energy Research Network (FERN). In 2011, she co-founded and served as the first Director of the Acadia Tidal Energy Institute. From 2009 to 2016, Anna served as an Independent Director on the Board of the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) and has been a Board member of the Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA) of Nova Scotia since 2018. Her most recent Board appointment has been with Springboard. 

Stephen Shaw
Executive Director, CBDC Hants-Kings

With an MBA (Finance) from Saint Mary’s University and more than 25 years of banking and small business experience, Stephen is a customer-focused leader with a passion for community.

Stephen strives to ensure that all entrepreneurs receive the advice, training and financing they need to be successful and a productive part of our local economy.

Cris Shirritt
Founder, BTW Law

Cris launched BTW Law in 2015 to focus exclusively on supporting Annapolis Valley businesses and their owners. In his role as a legal and business advisor, he sees daily the opportunities and challenges of doing business in the Annapolis Valley.

Cris graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with degrees in accounting and law. He has also completed Levels I, II and III of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada’s In-depth Tax Program.

Cris began his legal career in a large, regional law firm, providing tax and business advice to clients from start-up businesses to multi-national public companies.

He has established two start-up ventures and is managing the growth and contraction of a well-established business. Cris has been an active community volunteer and is currently a director and member of the executive committee of the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce.


Luke Hempel

CFO, Eden Valley Poultry 

Luke is a seasoned finance professional with vast business experience developed over 25 years. Born and raised in South Africa, Luke began his career by completing articles at a medium-sized audit firm, developing a solid foundation in auditing, financial reporting, and analytics. During his career he held various financial and operationally focused roles within the telecoms sector, including an international stint in Cyprus, thereafter, returning to South Africa to take up the position of CFO.

 In 2021, Luke made a pivotal decision to relocate to Canada to further expand his professional horizons. He embraced the opportunity to assume the role of Chief Financial Officer at Eden Valley Poultry, a reputable organization in the industry known for its commitment to quality and innovation.

 Outside of his professional endeavors, Luke enjoys exploring new places with his wife and two sons, immersing himself in different cultures and staying active. He believes in giving back to the community and actively participates in volunteer initiatives that align with his values.

Luke is a CPA (Aust.), Chartered Global Management Account (CIMA) and Professional Accountant (SA) and holds a Bachelor of Accounting Science degree.



Valley Regional Enterprise Network Helping You Grow In the Valley