Wood Buffalo Economic Development

Economic Opportunity Assessment

Project Background:

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) Economic Development Department in partnership with by Economic Developers Alberta (EDA) are pleased to be hosting an Economic Opportunity Assessment Team (EOAT) in Wood Buffalo from January 23-27, 2017. An EOAT is a group of highly skilled, and experienced economic development professionals that have expertise in disaster recovery and economic development.

The purpose of this project is to have the team conduct a qualitative assessment and unbiased review of the key economic challenges the RMWB is facing as well as identify where opportunities may exist to improve the economic outlook moving forward. Over the past twenty years, EOAT’s have been widely utilized throughout the U.S., and successfully applied in Alberta in 2013 after the Southern Alberta floods.

A key objective of the project is to undertake a needs assessment/gap analysis by gathering information from key community stakeholders and business owners on pre-existing conditions prior to the fire, direct and indirect impacts, actions taken to date, and identification of resource gaps/needs. This information will be collected and a final report will be created that identifies potential opportunities for future action to assist RMWB with its medium and long term economic recovery efforts.

Economic Opportunity Assessment Team:

Leann Hackman-Carty (Canada)


Leann Hackman-Carty specializes in economic development, economic recovery, entrepreneurship, project management as well as public and government relations. Since 2009, Leann has served as CEO of Economic Developers Alberta (EDA) which is Alberta’s economic development network. Its 300+ members are involved in economic development activities including business retention & expansion, business and investment attraction, opportunity identification, tourism, workforce development, business and economic recovery, and industry sector development.

At the end of 2014, Leann completed an Economic Disaster Recovery Project with 10 Alberta communities and Treaty 7 Community Futures (Siksika/Stoney). She also Canadianized the Recovery and Resiliency Roadmap: A Toolkit for Economic Preparedness, which is a toolkit for communities to use in preparing for and recovering from economic disruptions, whether natural or man-made.

Since May 2016, Leann has been working with the RMWB on their business and economic recovery efforts, including setting up and running the Wood Buffalo Business Recovery Hotline and validating businesses for Red Cross emergency relief. She is currently working with the International Economic Development Council on bringing their resiliency training to Canada, and will be leading the Team to Fort McMurray.

Mickie Valente (USA)


Mickie Valente is an economic disaster recovery consultant with over a decade of success designing and implementing economic development programs and effective strategies to restore local communities and support community resiliency.

After working with Enterprise Florida, Florida’s lead economic development organization, where she coordinated the state’s initiatives to recover businesses and local economies following the devastating 2004-2005 hurricane seasons that impacted two-thirds of Florida’s 67 counties, she launched her own consulting business in 2009.

Since that time she has consulted with local, state, federal and private sector leadership in more than a dozen states and Canada and has served as a subject matter adviser and disaster resiliency instructor for the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO), FEMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She is regularly engaged as an expert consultant by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to coordinate the federal support of onsite economic recovery initiatives in states that have experienced federally declared disasters, including some of her most recent assessments in Florida, Louisiana, New York, Alaska and Colorado. Expertise she brings from working on over 20 disasters is significant.

Natalie Gibson (Canada)


Natalie Gibson is the President of InnoVisions and Associates. InnoVisions is an international economic development and marketing consultancy firm based in Airdrie, Alberta. Economic Development troubleshooting and community development strategies have become a specialty for Natalie, and she specializes in providing elected officials and community leaders with the ‘detail to make decisions’ for their businesses and communities to thrive and grow.

With 18 years of market research and business development experience, Natalie serves both private and public sector clients. Her specialties include, but are not limited to, development of business retention and expansion programs, industry profile and analysis, feasibility studies, business investment attraction, marketing plans, and new market development.

A skilled public speaker and a dynamic presenter Natalie shares a unique community development perspective developed from experience in both economic development and from serving as an elected official. She is certified in both economic development and marketing. In the last five years, Natalie has taught, trained and motivated hundreds of elected officials, economic development personnel and community stakeholders delivering one of Canada’s first Community Economic Development Training Program (CEDTP).

Charles Wemple (USA)


 Charles (Chuck) Wemple is the Chief Operating Officer for the Houston-Galveston Area Council where he oversees all programs and services including transportation planning, community and environmental planning, public safety, and workforce development.

He has extensive experience in addressing infrastructure, housing and economic recovery needs following Hurricanes Rita and Ike – including the allocation and programming of over $2 billion in HUD recovery funds; developing FEMA regional hazard mitigation plans; implementing small business financing programs; and, evaluating economic development strategies to increase resiliency.

Chuck has served on several State-level disaster recovery policy committees designed to improve the speed and efficiency of disaster recovery. The Houston-Galveston area Council covers over 12,000 square miles along the upper Texas coast, includes 13 counties and over 100 cities and towns, with 6.6 million people and has an annual operating budget of approximately $248 million. In addition, given his work in the Houston area, he is very familiar with the energy industry and the challenges currently facing it.

Daniel Hobson (Canada)

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Daniel is the Economic Development Officer at the Lloydminster Economic Development Corporation (LEDC). Holding a Master of Arts with specialization in Public Policy, Daniel’s main area of research has focused on economic development in northern communities.

Since coming to Lloydminster Daniel has been responsible for implementing a Business Retention and Expansion Program and advising the Downtown Business Improvement District. Serving in a border community has given Daniel a unique insight into working with multiple stakeholders and creating partnerships across borders.

Prior to coming to Lloydminster Daniel was an Economic Development Researcher at the County of Brant, (ON). He is currently working towards EDAC certification, and recently became a certified Professional Community and Economic Developer of Saskatchewan. Daniel is also a volunteer firefighter and is very thankful to be in a position to help the community of Fort McMurray.

Angela Groeneveld (Canada)


 Angela is passionate about identifying and seizing opportunities in small businesses to increase their performance. As an entrepreneur, she has an extensive history of running small businesses in rural Alberta and British Columbia and generating results. With firsthand experience in the franchise, food, agriculture, fashion and health & wellness industries; she has gained valuable knowledge that can help make businesses succeed. Her experience enables her to share many learning’s that can help overcome obstacles that stand in the way. Angela has a passion for sharing her expertise with businesses that are recovering, maintaining or expanding.

After the flooding of Southern Alberta in 2013, Angela was contracted by the Town of High River to lead two of three phases of economic recovery as the Business Renewal Officer. One of the deliverables of the many recovery initiatives was she was hired to help local businesses recover and rebuild after the devastating effects of the floods. In this capacity, Angela’s accomplishments include building a temporary business park to house displaced retail businesses; partnering with Mount Royal University in an initiative to pair business students with business owners to generate and implement ideas to grow revenue; and creating the Business Recovery Advisory Committee to engage with impacted businesses to identify and address their needs with available and updated services. In addition to business recovery, Angela supported the Mayor’s Economic Development Task Force Committee which oversees the final creation of a dynamic action plan for the town. She also serves the community by attracting and facilitating business inquiries and investments for the Town.

Kent Rupert (Canada)


 As the leader of Airdrie’s Economic Development team, Kent has developed a number of economic development strategies that has set the direction for the City of Airdrie in business retention and expansion and new investment attraction over the past 13 years.

Kent has seen the City of Airdrie triple its population to over 62,000 and over $1.2B in commercial/industrial construction value for the City and a consistent 8%/yearly business growth. Kent and his team have been involved in many of those key investment successes.

Kent and his team have also created a number of successful training programs for local business/entrepreneurs and a number of marketing strategies and campaigns that have won numerous awards from the Alberta Economic Developers Association, Economic Developers of Canada and from the Internationally Economic development Council over the past 10 years. One of these successes is a very successful home based business/Entrepreneurial strategy, which he will bring to this engagement.

Larry Wright (Canada)


Larry is currently the Strategy and Technology Officer for the Town of Olds. In this capacity he is responsible for integrating Economic Development, Engineering Technology, Infrastructure, Private Investment, Industrial and Commercial Expansion within Olds and adjacent areas in the Region. Olds Institute and the partners of Olds College, Olds Exhibition Association, and Chamber of Commerce are an integral part of growth with the community investment in Fiber (Community Project ONET 1 gig), Mountain View Power (Community Project).

Larry also responds to international trade inquiries from the Pacific Rim, USA, UK and opportunities through Alberta International Trade. Recently he made a presentation to a Chinese Delegation looking for Agricultural Technology centre in Alberta. He has significant public and private sector experience including:

  • Town of Olds: Director of the Operational Services Department
  • RMWB: Capital Projects Leader, Planning and Development Department; Superintendent, Utilities Division, Public Works Department; Superintendent of Engineering Services Division; and Superintendent of Engineering Construction Division

Raymond Wanuch (Canada)


Ray is the Executive Director for the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO).  CANDO is a federally registered, non-profit society that is Aboriginal controlled, community based, and membership driven. It is directed by a national regionally represented volunteer board of elected EDOs representing every region of Canada, and has been instrumental in facilitating partnerships with EDOs, academics, Aboriginal leaders and senior corporate and government representatives.  It is unique because it is the only national organization that focuses on education and professional development for EDOs working in Aboriginal communities or organizations.

Ray was born in Edmonton, Alberta, raised on the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement and is of First Nations descent from the Ermineskin Cree Nation. He obtained a Bachelor of Management degree from the University of Lethbridge in 1989; and also possesses the Technician and the Professional Level Certification from CANDO.

Prior to working with CANDO, Ray was the CEO of Settlement Investment Corporation. He then moved on to facilitate and manage the Métis Settlements Economic Viability Strategy, which received international recognition for sustainable development. He has also managed and taught a self‐employment program for the Métis Nation of Alberta. His volunteer work includes being appointed to the Alberta Water Council by the Métis Settlements General Council; as well as serving as the former CANDO Co‐President and Director representing Alberta.

Danielle Lightening (Canada)


 Danielle Lightening is the Special Projects Coordinator for Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO). Danielle’s Cree name is Nipi-iskwew, which means Water Woman and she is an Oji-Cree woman from the Ermineskin Cree Nation of Maskwacis, Alberta. She is currently working on completing her Degree in the Bachelor of Commerce program at MacEwan University, majoring in Management. Previously, she had completed the Management Diploma and transferred into the Degree program. She also has a background in Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing.

While in school, she has taken part in community leadership roles such as being Co-President of MacEwan’s Aboriginal Student Club and as an Ambassador in MacEwan’s Ambassador Leadership program. She strives to take every opportunity outside as well as inside the classroom to expand her experience and knowledge to fulfill her career goal. She would love to work with Aboriginal communities and have a chance to inspire youth to chase their passions. Danielle has had exposure to many inspiring role models through a Summer Student position at Cando as the National Conference Assistant. She has also had the opportunity to share her story and inspire other youth by sitting on CANDO’s National Youth Panel in 2014. She is excited to continue with the CANDO family in the role as Special Projects Coordinator, she believes she will have the right foundation at CANDO to gain experience and achieve her career goal.