New CEO bent on revamped mandate for Edmonton Economic Development Corporation

The 26-year-old city-funded Edmonton Economic Development Corporation is taking a new approach to growing business opportunities for the city, with a new CEO at the helm.

Derek Hudson wants to engage community groups in economic talks

Edmonton Economic Development Corporation operates the Expo Centre on the former Northlands grounds and the Edmonton Convention Centre downtown. (edmontonexpocentre.com)

The 26-year-old city-funded Edmonton Economic Development Corporation is taking a new approach to growing business opportunities for the city, with a new CEO at the helm.

Speaking at the EEDC's annual luncheon on Tuesday, Derek Hudson told the crowd of nearly 1,000 that he wants to bring more groups into the conversation to explore ways of propelling Edmonton past oil market doldrums.

"We want to engage people who have small businesses, people involved in arts and culture and sports as well as those who run large businesses and who are involved in public service and government," said Hudson.

"We can do so much with this organization," he said. "And then if we expand the efforts to the entire Edmonton business community and beyond that to the entire Edmonton community how much more can we do." 
Derek Hudson, new CEO of EEDC, tells a luncheon crowd about his broad plan to consult the community, including non-profits, arts and culture, and sports groups. (Peter Evans/CBC)

The renewed approach to building the economy comes a few months after several city councillors questioned how much EEDC has helped the economy grow and what it intends to do going forward.

The EEDC gets $20 million from the city each year, with the remainder of its $70 million budget coming from convention centre operations and government grants.

Entrepreneurs from start-up businesses also turned up at a council meeting in October to express their discontent at what they called a lack of transparency of the EEDC.

EEDC operates several divisions involved in economic development and events, including Innovate Edmonton, Startup Edmonton, Edmonton Tourism, the Edmonton Convention Centre and the EXPO Centre, and it partners with the University of Alberta to run TEC Edmonton.

At a shareholders' meeting in November, members gave EEDC a fresh mandate to continue its work.

At the luncheon on Tuesday, Mayor Don Iveson said he sees a difference in the refreshed EEDC. 
Mayor Don Iveson said Edmonton could use a "mind-set shift" across industries to encourage a growing economy. (Peter Evans/CBC)

"I think we have an organization here that is really interested in new ways to collaborate and serve collaborate with and serve the business community."

Iveson said Edmonton needs a "mindset shift" across industries to expand and innovate instead of waiting for and relying on the oil market to rebound.

"I love that idea of, you know, if it ain't broke, break it," he told media after the luncheon. "That is the spirit of innovation, that is what great entrepreneurs do to begin with in starting a company is they find something and they break it down and they build something new that nobody's built before."

Edmonton Global

EEDC was created to help focus economic interests under one umbrella. Then in 2017, a new regional effort called Edmonton Global was born. 

Formed in June, Edmonton Global is made up of 15 surrounding communities including Leduc County, Sherwood Park, Sturgeon County and Parkland County.

Hudson said the collaboration differs from the EEDC in that it markets the metro region to the world, "so that we don't end up in market with an Edmonton booth, a Leduc booth and an airport booth."

Edmonton Global works on coordinating municipal economies with a focus on agriculture and petrochemicals, Hudson said. 

EEDC's focus will be driving an economy based in Edmonton, in areas like health and artificial intelligence.

Impending audit

Hudson took over the helm of the EEDC from Brad Ferguson, who stepped down last year. 

As part of the regime change, Hudson said the EEDC board has agreed to have an audit done in 2020.

"I'm new, we've got a new mandate from the city," he said. "So we want to get some baseline things established and then we'll figure out what's the best value we can get from a look from the city auditor."

The decision comes after Coun. Mike Nickel raised a motion last fall to have the EEDC audited. Because the organization is arm's length from the city, council can't demand an audit — the group must agree to have it done.



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