2021 Conference Speakers
Find out more about the high-quality speakers from all around the world, coming straight to your office when you register for the Saskatchewan Economic Development & Leadership Forum on November 24 and 25, 2021.
Plenary Session Speakers
Nikolas is the Chief Futurist and Think Tank leader at Futurist.com, a Fellow of the RSA, and the futurist that the world's most impactful companies, A-list Hollywood, and international media turn to for big ideas, new thinking and opinion. Nikolas has advised NASA, Google, Microsoft, United Nations, United Way, Bank of Canada, Government of Canada, UK Home Office, Government of Cayman Islands, American Express, AT&T, Thales, Rolls Royce, Heineken, Procter & Gamble, IDEO, and many more.
Doug Opseth is the Director of Generation Asset Management and Planning at SaskPower. In this role, Doug leads the team with the challenging task of ensuring the growing demand for power in Saskatchewan can be met while at the same time dealing with ageing generation facilities and increasing pressures on greenhouse gas emissions. Much of Doug’s work the past several years has been focused on the development of SaskPower’s long-terms plan for the energy transition away from conventional coal by 2030. Previously Doug had been responsible for SaskPower’s work with Independent Power Producers and led the negotiations of Power Purchase Agreements with private companies and neighbouring Canadian provinces.
Endlessly curious about the origin of legends and myths, Gair is a global authority in helping organizations create iconic, larger-than life brands that attract legions of customers and top talent—without having to resort to “pushy” marketing tactics. Gair is a renowned speaker, author, marketing consultant and co-founder of The Seamless Brand™, a marketing firm that helps organizations sharpen their message and anchor their story. A former broadcaster, Gair did more than 10,000 interviews and 30,000 broadcasts in a two-decade radio and television career.
Concurrent Session Speakers
Deb is the cofounder of SaveYour.Town and spends many days in small towns around the world. Her expertise in filling empty buildings, marketing in a small town and the Idea Friendly Method for economic development is changing the landscape for many towns. A wealth of experience includes foreign casualty insurance underwriting, bartending, managing internet stores and luggage stores, selling knives, leading a chamber and working with small towns. Deb has lived in tiny towns, small towns, small cities and a major metro city. Yet, she’s come home to a small town and travels to many others to help. Deb is a relentless optimist and knows how to build possibility in your small town. Better yet, she inspires you to take small steps towards a brighter future for your community. Deb has keynoted at Brownfields National Training Conference, Rural X Summits, TEDx Brookings, Michigan Rural Economic Development Conference, Roscommon County Michigan, to name a few.
Sean Wallace is the Managing Director of the South Saskatchewan Ready Partnership based in Coronach, Saskatchewan, tasked with developing economic plans to mitigate the negative affects of Coal Transition. He is a nationally recognized subject matter expert in rural economic development. Before moving to Saskatchewan, Sean served with three different provincial/territorial governments and held senior civil servant and senior political advisor positions with a focus on jobs and economy. Sean spent 10 years with the Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Armour Corps as a Reconnaissance Crew Commander and attained the rank of Master Corporal. Both professionally and as an avid volunteer for numerous boards and committees, Sean has been recognized with awards throughout his career. In 2012 he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to Canada.
Bruce Fidler is the mayor of Creighton. He is currently in his 19th year as mayor and his 28th year on council. Bruce is also the chair of New North, whch is an advocacy association representing all communities in northern Saskatchewan. As the mayor, he has always been involved in economic development and job creation. Facing the closure of the largest employer in the region, he and the two other mayors of the area communities created a Regional Economic Development Commission. Funded by the three communities, the commission and the economic development officer work toward job creation, industry attraction and business retention. Like most northerners, he enjoys all outdoor activities, fishing, hunting, golfing, etc.
Tim is the Regional Economic Development Director for the Southeast Sask Economic Partnership (SSEP) based out of Estevan, Saskatchewan. Tim grew up on a mixed farm in the RM of Estevan No. 5 and attended the University of Saskatchewan where he attained degrees in Regional and Urban Development and Economics and is professional Planner. Tim worked throughout Saskatchewan as a Regional Economic Development Officer for Mainline REDA in Broadview and Great River Lakes REDA of Outlook Saskatchewan. Tim moved to Alberta and worked for Alberta Agriculture as an agribusiness development specialist and then later for MNP as manager for management consulting and agribusiness. Tim owns a rural economic management consulting firm and is co-owner of a private land development company based in Estevan. He is married with 3 kids and enjoys spending time in all aspects of the great outdoors.
Tina Rasmussen is the Corporate Development Officer for MLTC Industrial Investments. The Economic Development arm of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council. Tina has a diverse background of experience. Having spent 15 years as a municipal Chief Operating Officer, 20 years involved in Saskatchewan’s Health Authority Board Keewatin Yatthe and 9 years with Northern Lights Board of Education. Tina brings a wealth of experience in a variety of fields and connection to the Indigenous communities of Northern Saskatchewan. Most recently, Tina has begun work with the Meadow Lake Tribal council on advancing their renewable energy aspirations. Most particularly with the development of a BioEnergy facility directly tied to the Tribal Councils sawmill operations in Northern Saskatchewan. This new state of the art facility will see 6.6 megawatts of renewable energy produced and supplied to the SaskPower grid. Enough power for supply to 5000 homes and permanently replacing reliance on fossil fuels. Tina believes strongly in developing the participation of Indigenous people and communities in the economic fabric of our province and is working to advance this at every opportunity.
Ron McCullough is the City Manager for the City of Melville, SK. Over the last 43 years, Ron has spent 10 years in private sector (banking and self employment) and 33 years in public service, primarily with local governments across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Ron believes in sustainable community development through a balanced approach to economy, physical infrastructure, natural environment, social and culture, and governance.
Branavan Tharmarajah is an alumnus of McGill and Acadia University, with a background in business and nutrition, and he is presently finishing his MBA in Community Economic Development at CBU. He has worked in both the private and nonprofit sectors and brings a unique perspective on promoting health and economic development using community-based approaches. At The Growcer, Branavan helps communities all across Canada grow food year-round commercially, locally, and sustainably and supports them to increase their food sovereignty.
Growing up on a 50 acre hobby farm on Prince Edward Island gave Meredith a passion for the environment and tourism. This passion became a career with Meredith working for the County of Oxford as a Tourism Specialist since 2013. In this role Meredith has launched the Oxford County Cheese Trail, the Oxford Fresh buy local program, tourism cycling routes, Experience Oxford and supported the County of Oxford’s efforts in sustainability. Learn about the collaborative approach taken in Oxford County and how they harnessed what the community had available to offer visitors.
More than a decade ago, Margaret started asking businesses, “What is your story?” and discovered that the answer was never the same. Each story was as unique as the owner but it often seemed like this individuality wasn’t experienced by customers. Today, Margaret continues to prompt leaders, owners, operators, and destinations with this essential question in order to create a catalyst for new thinking about the story they are telling. A passionate believer in what she describes as the ‘living narrative’, Margaret has developed story systems, training, and media for large corporations, governments, destinations, and businesses in order to shift cultures, inform and direct strategy, and bring stories to life. One of her favourite parts of working on a new project is the challenge of solving a narrative puzzle using digital, analog, memory, media and real-life elements to create a story experience.
Jonathan Foster is the Executive Director of the nationally awarded and recognized Gros Morne Institute for Sustainable Tourism, located in Gros Morne, NL. Jonathan has been involved in the tourism industry as both an operator and advocate having worked in the private sector, government and university settings over the past 25 years. Having studied and worked across Canada and New Zealand, Jonathan has been exposed to many destinations and ways of doing business. It is this exposure that has helped shape his understanding and passion regarding community tourism development. This passion has led him to become heavily involved regionally working with communities and businesses to help facilitate and grow their tourism experiences. Jonathan strongly believes that by utilizing the talents and skills of people within communities that businesses and destinations can flourish in a very globally competitive marketplace.
Alicia Buckley is a member of the Buffalo River Dene Nation and an urban Indigenous woman. She earned her degree at the University of Saskatchewan in Regional and Urban planning and has a passion for engaging the community, building stronger communities and community development. Alicia is honoured to help build the Indigenous profile in Saskatchewan while working along side the wonderful team at Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan as the Program Director for the Centre or Indigenous Women, Two Spirit and Gender Diversity. While in this role, she worked to gather the voices of Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQ+ in the first Indigenous Women’s Economic Framework, now being implemented. She has many years experience with governance and policy development and has been able to use her skill sets on a number of Boards, committees and community initiatives where she can be a voice for those who are not heard.
With over 25 years of progressive experience in community economic development, business development and regional development, Celine has extensive knowledge in providing results driven leadership, and management support. She has worked with numerous regional and provincial organizations including urban and rural municipalities, as well as communities of Northern Saskatchewan. Celine’s applied practice includes: small urban community economic and business development; regional economic development as CEO of a northern Enterprise Region; program delivery, marketing services, and facilitator/developer of training modules for the Saskatchewan Economic Development Alliance; owner/co-owner of three different business initiatives; project management for a consortium of 10 rural municipalities; and director/executive member of numerous local, regional and provincial economic and business development organizations. Celine is a visionary with a realistic approach to action, and a willingness to take on new initiatives. She holds the Professional Community and Economic Developer of Saskatchewan (PCED.SK) designation.
As President and CEO of the British Columbia Economic Development Association, Dale brings over 25 years of knowledge along with a varied background in economic development and local government, both in small and large communities. Previously Dale received his Certificate in Economic Development from the University of Waterloo. He has served as President of the BC Economic Development Association and as a Director of the Economic Developers Association of Canada. Dale and his teams have won numerous awards including Economic Development Officer of the Year Award, marketing, and the BCEDA Presidents award for work on disaster economic recovery. While with the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation, Dale managed a team of professionals resulting in the attraction of several new companies to the community, development and implementation of an award winning business retention program, and gained the reputation of having one of the most successful economic development structures in Canada.
Guillermo has a long history in the investment promotion industry. His team at Conway develops strategies and integrates resources to assist clients in leveraging technology to attract investment to their communities. A sought-after industry speaker and contributor on Forbes magazine, Guillermo has served as a consultant and professor with the U.S. Travel Association, the University of Waterloo, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Inter-American Development Bank, and the International Economic Development Council, teaching over 12,700 professionals. Co-author of the first and only research papers on economic development performance, digital metrics and how technology-enabled services can save economic development, Guillermo and his colleagues’ data and observations have been shared with thousands of economics developers around the globe. His successes include Downtown Miami; Tortuguero Costa Rica, The State of Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; Nogales, Mexico; and numerous other international, city, state, and federal agencies. Guillermo earned his MBA in International Business from Regis University and is based in Conway’s Phoenix office.
George Barnhart is a utilities specialist with a focus of deriving value from technology. George worked for SaskPower and as VP Strategic Development VP Information Systems with SaskEnergy. Moving into consulting in 2021, he is the founder of TICE (The Internet Changes Everything) and author of The Networked Economy. George has been on the SEDA team since early 2021 as our business strategist.