Among the changes Don Anderson said he’s seen in his 13 years helping entrepreneurs develop and launch their ventures is the growing number of women getting into business for themselves.
“When I first arrived probably the number of folks we were engaged with was about 30 per cent female and about 70 per cent male, whereas those numbers are almost reversed now,” the general manager of the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation said. “A lot more female-led businesses and a lot more females interested in being a business owner.”
Other changes in his years at the helm of the federally funded not-for-profit include more businesses incorporating a virtual presence and an increase in the number of medical businesses amid Sarnia-Lambton’s aging population, he said.
Anderson, 65, is retiring from the post as of March 31.
There are travel plans with his wife and hopes to see more of his seven-year-old grandson in Winnipeg, said Anderson, who grew up in Listowel and worked in 13 southern Ontario communities, including stints as a relationship manager with a chartered bank and as senior manager with the Business Development Bank of Canada, before moving to Sarnia for the more “grassroots” role in 2010.
“Certainly, I’ve enjoyed the time here and the opportunity to work with a great team,” he said, “and I’ve worked with a lot of great business owners in the community, new and existing.”
With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully waning, and the recent deaths of close friends having him pondering his own mortality, the timing seemed right, he said.
“I think it’s a good time for the organization for somebody new to take the reins, take the helm and go forward.”
That person is Sarah Reaume, who joined the agency on Feb. 16 and is spending the next several weeks alongside Anderson learning the ins and outs of the organization before taking over as CEO, the agency’s board recently announced.
The name change from general manager to chief executive officer is semantic, said board chairperson Matt Pasut, adding he’s not sure why that even happened.
“It’s exactly the same role,” he said.
He thanked Anderson for “an incredible job” with the organization and said the board is looking forward to Reaume’s “energy and her experience.”
That experience is broad, said Reaume, a former Habitat for Humanity Sarnia-Lambton executive director for nine years. She was also dean of administration for two post-secondary institutions in the United Arab Emirates and has worked in advertising, marketing, retail and other sectors.
“I hope to bring the breadth of all of that experience and my knowledge of our community – of Sarnia-Lambton – to bear on this position,” Reaume said.
She emphasized the development corporation’s mandate to support small business owners and to create permanent long-term employment opportunities through funding, coaching, mentoring and economic development.
Inflation, supply-chain difficulties and the relative scarcity of talent for job vacancies are all currents challenges for businesses here and elsewhere, she said, along with a shift to a more digital marketplace and changing customer expectations.
“The (development corporation) wants to bring to bear our collective experience and our support and our resources to help and to make a difference,” Reaume said.
Three other people besides she and Anderson currently work at the organization, she said.
“There’s lots of opportunity to get involved and to leverage relationships, to build new partnerships, and to support an already incredible staff team in their efforts and in what they do.”