The job is done, the harvest is in but there are no seeds to be sown next Spring.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON April 18, 2011 – There is always a sense of relief and regret when a term of office ends. If it’s an elected position there is huge regret when you lose. It isn’t much different when a term of office for community service comes to an end. You get the plaque, the (hopefully) warm round of applause and the complimentary comments on the job you did. And then you go home, you put your feet up – and then what do you do ?

A knowledge economy at work.  Gregory spends as much time at a keyboard as he does promoting Burlington.

A knowledge economy at work. Gregory spends as much time at a keyboard as he does promoting Burlington.

If community service is one of your passions, if you believe that part of your reason for being on this earth is to serve and make the place better for others – sitting at home watching television isn’t very high on the priority list. And that is where Mark Gregory finds himself this week. He serves in other capacities in the city but the task that kept him really busy and invigorated was the Chairmanship of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation. BEDC, a non profit that looks for new companies that think they might like to call Burlington home. An equally large part of the job is to make sure that those who have chosen Burlington stick around.

Gregory who served as a member of the BEDC for four years got chosen by the Board to lead the corporation at a time when layoffs were being made throughout the city and while no one had to shut down and cease operating, it was far from smooth sailing for the Burlington economy as the world weathered a nasty recession.

That recession impacted many organizations in Burlington, including Locomotion, a Burling based communications and public relations firm of which Gregory is the Managing Partner.

Gregory chose to use the time to grow the business community rather than to go into a defensive mode and out of that growth came a number of intriguing initiatives that appear to have served the city exceptionally well. Kyle Benham, Executive Director of the BEDC developed a Rapid Response protocol to deal with those extraordinary situations when a deal was close to closing but needed that extra push to get it done.

For Gregory it was vital that the BEDC take a strategic approach to the situation they faced and he gives an example on how the organization could be “strategic” using the membership it had on it’s Board. Gregory explains that the talent within the BEDC is what makes it possible to pull together a Rapid Response team which is a significant plus – but the talent on the Board is exceptionally deep. “We have a Board member from the IT field, Louise St-Pierre, Senior Vice President, Residential Services, Cogeco Cable Canada LP who was at one point the Chief Information Officer for her organization and is now an Executive vice president located in Burlington.

“She has her finger tips in every significant information technology change on the horizon and we have that talent at our table. We get briefings at every Board meeting and if we see a situation where we need some advice and content briefings when a new prospect is looking at Burlington, a very informed comment is available to us. Few communities have this depth of talent on their Board and we can use that talent to help make strategic decisions.”

One of the effective and pleasurable working tools Gregory developed was his Friday afternoon beer sessions that he will regret letting go. But we all move on and Gregory can let that one go. However, I’m pretty sure Gregory will take a phone call to get together for a beer almost any Friday afternoon.

Mark Gregory cover off last minute details with Lauren Griesbach before the start of the BEDC AGM.

Mark Gregory cover off last minute details with Lauren Griesbach before the start of the BEDC AGM.

Gregory fully understood the need for Burlington to create a “knowledge economy” and he sees the role that the DeGroote school of Business is going to play, as it works its way into the fabric of both the city and the business community, as a very significant part of the transition. That DeGroote facility came on stream during the last part of Gregory’s term of office. “Innovation has to be our top priority” maintains Gregory and he realizes that our continued growth depends upon being innovative.

Mark Gregory will chair the Nomination Committee for the next two years and in that way continue to have an impact on the new blood being brought into the BEDC. He will also serve on the Executive Committee that Executive Director Benham turns to when there is some heavy lifting to be done.

Asked if he did the job he set out to do when he became Chairman, Gregory demurs and says that is for others to say.

The BEDC sponsors a number of events that serve as a networking hub for the large corporations in the city. They include the Economic Outlook Breakfast, the Mayor’s Networking Lunch and their Signature event at which they recognize and honour the entrepreneur of the year.

While economic development is a passion for Gregory the city of Burlington has him getting all mushy and soft. He has worked in many cities; Lethbridge, Edmonton, Regina – and none he says compares to what Burlington has to offer. He was obviously a natural to lead the BEDC. As Chair of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation at a time when the city was struggling to get through a recession we could do nothing about, Gregory maintained the course and has now turned the helm over to someone else. His dance card has an open spot on it.




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