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Bruce Strapp: Lessons from a 33-year career as an economic development professional


Bruce Strapp served as an economic development professional in Red Lake, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie before assuming the role of CEO of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) in 2010. 

After graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in Economic Geography, Bruce found his way to Red Lake, where he owned an expediting business serving the local mining camp. His career in economic development was launched when the chair of the local economic development commission took notice of his talents and offered him a job managing a job training project.

“One of the most important skills I had was the ability to expedite and get things done,” a talent that is essential for any economic development professional, he tells us in this interview.

This talent was sharpened through five years in Red Lake, two years in Timmins, 18 years in Sault Ste. Marie and eight years as CEO of the NOHFC.

High performing economic development officers need to be passionate about the communities they serve, he tells us. They need to have a vision for their community, be good strategic thinkers, and have strong communication, networking and team building skills. Even more important though is the ability to implement, to make things happen and to bring economic development projects to a successful conclusion.

Bruce recalls some of the most impactful projects he was involved in during his career, emphasizing the positive impact of the NOHFC internship program, which helped recent graduates secure their first job in Northern Ontario and strengthened the region’s talent pool.

The main challenge for Northern Ontario going forward, he says, is to mitigate the negative effects of the boom-bust cycles in the mining and forestry industries through economic diversification, population growth and the stimulation of Indigenous entrepreneurship.

Mindful of the positive impact of the NOHFC and Fednor, Bruce recommends a doubling of their annual investments, the conversion of Fednor to a stand-alone institution with a Northern Ontario board of directors and the relocation of more government offices like the Lottery Corporation in Sault Ste. Marie and the Tax Data Centre in Sudbury to Northern Ontario.