News & Media

Industry Organizations Welcome New Leader

Business leaders often make their chops while manning the rudder through choppy waters.

But this pandemic is wearing us all out a little and while none blame the COVID disruption directly, there are more than half a dozen Manitoba industry organizations that have undergone leadership changes since the start of the series of pandemic lockdowns that began 14 months ago.

While personnel changes are obviously a normal part of any business or organization, it can also be stressful and time consuming for boards and staffers at the best of times.

Such an uncommon occurrence as the COVID-19 pandemic has just made everything a little trickier. Perhaps because there was so much disruption all around, several people involved in the process of recruiting for some of these leadership positions said there were a large number of excellent candidates for all the positions.

Bill Campbell, the volunteer president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, which just appointed Brenna Mahoney as its new general manager, said, "I hope we don’t have to go through that again for a while."

In addition to KAP, since the beginning of the pandemic the following organizations, in no particular order, have hired new leaders or are about to: Canadian Grain Commission, Bioscience Association of Manitoba, Food and Beverage Manitoba, Tech Manitoba, Manitoba Mining Industry Association, Manitoba Pork, Research Manitoba and Peak of the Market.

The fact that nothing is normal these days may lessen the general awareness of any particular change having occurred. But next time there is an occasion to get together, people are going to notice there a lot of new faces around the table.

While many of the board members and new organization heads downplayed the impact of COVID as the rationale for change, some are taking over to launch or continue new initiatives for which the pandemic was at least partly responsible.

Kelly Fournel, who became CEO of Tech Manitoba (formerly ICTAM) in mid-March, came on at a time when, as she put it, "we are really coming into our own."

Technology has obviously become an increasingly important part of many businesses, especially those creating their own intellectual property. But now it’s crucial for just about every business.

With the help of other business groups Tech Manitoba was involved in some roundtable discussions to find out the elements of technology small businesses are struggling with.

The No. 1 thing they heard was people want an agnostic place to go for information about technology so they don’t feel they are being sold to.

"We’re now looking at how that would work and how we can provide that information," Fournel said.

At Research Manitoba, where Karen Dunlop recently took over from longtime CEO Christina Wiese, who left in August, some of its funding was diverted to COVID-related projects.

Also Andrea Legary, the organization’s chair, said it was already well into a large project aimed at clarifying the process leading up to clinical trials.

While it is not necessarily related to the pandemic or to a change in leadership, Legary acknowledged it is a "unique undertaking for Research Manitoba, which is normally just advancing and promoting research."

And while few would suggest the changing of the guard has anything to do with the general state of affairs of the Manitoba economy, the pandemic has provided many with the opportunity to step back and take a moment to think about the future.

-Winnipeg Free Press