Roderick Benns recently interviewed Andrew Wallen, general manager of Kawartha Lakes Community Futures Development Corporation (KLCFDC). Wallen departs this week — after 20 years at the helm — to take on a new position in Western Ontario at the Western Ontario CFDCA.
Benns: You’ve seen this community grow in many ways over the years. What are the top two or three things in that regard that stand out in your mind as it relates to CFDC?
Wallen: For me in terms of the gains in our community related to the KLCFDC …that might not have ever happened as it starts with us becoming a member of the Community Futures Program in 2001—something that the organization was not part of previously.
It was only then that we could have helped secure the EODP program as a grants and contributions program from the Government of Canada for not only Kawartha Lakes but the entire region of Eastern Ontario. This led to over $10 million dollars locally for Kawartha Lakes and $150 million regionally for businesses and public organizations, which in turn provided monies to help enterprises start, grow and succeed. (It also helped) organizations do many great things such as five docking extensions in the City along the Trent Severn Waterway and ultimately, the Million Dollar Makeover to upgrade the look of many of our downtowns, which will only enhance visitors’ shopping experience.
It also provided the foundation for the extension of access to high-speed internet services across Eastern Ontario, a $200 million+ investment through a 3P partnership involving all 3 levels of government and overall, the single largest funded initiative that came out of EODP. And it all started right here in Kawartha Lakes and with our Board of Directors recognizing the importance of improving these services and therefore, allowing me to initiate the Broadband GAP Analysis Research which provided the evidence-based foundation by which the 10-year expansion of services project was built upon.
Finally the development by the KLCFDC and its ‘sister’ organization, the KLBCDC to launch in the community, providing greater access to capital and options for businesses seeking financial support.
Benns: What did you find the biggest challenge was in your job while you were here? Any ideas how this could change for the better?
Wallen: The challenge is always being able to provide everyone with everything they are looking for to improve their business, their organization or the community—in terms of the efforts they are looking to make to enhance the prosperity and quality of life here in Kawartha Lakes. Over the years there have been so many worthwhile projects brought to the Board’s attention but in the end, we can only afford to support a select number. To fix this, we just need to continue to advocate for further support for our small businesses and our local communities—something that the Board will never stop doing.
Benns: What will you take to southwestern Ontario in terms of your experiences here at KLCFDC? Are you looking forward to the new challenge?
Wallen: All the great opportunities and experiences I have discussed and participated in with both groups and individuals based what could be achieved. Then we tried to discern the best way for us to go about providing support. In an average year, we collaborated annually with likely 30 to 50 groups and individuals across the City; the best news is that when you do talk shop, you do it objectively and keep an open mind.
My challenge going forward will be to see if we can achieve more of these same kinds of gains for Western Ontario communities and their Community Futures organizations in the years ahead.