After nearly eight years as general manager of the Hearst Economic Development Corp., Daniel Sigouin has decided to move on.
In June, Sigouin accepted a new job in Ottawa as the executive director with the Economic Development and Employability Network of Ontario (RDÉE Ontario).
“It was a career decision,” said Sigouin. “It was an opportunity to have a provincial-wide position in economic development.”
RDÉE Ontario is a provincial network that promotes development in francophone communities across Ontario. It has offices in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor and Sudbury.
Sigouin spent 17 years in Hearst also working for Villeneuve Construction and the Nord-Aski Regional Economic Development Corporation.
“It was an extremely difficult decision to leave,” he said. “I think I did the four corners of the garden, and it was time for the organization to find new blood.”
The community went through an economic upheaval with the forestry industry during Sigouin’s tenure in Hearst, a time he calls “one of the worst crisis in Northern Ontario.
“When it goes down like it did, there is very little that you can do.”
But Sigouin and community leaders decided to find innovative ways to create sustainable jobs. They focussed on renewable energy.
“I think we succeeded,” he said. “It’s still in the very early stages, but there are some success stories in Hearst,” alluding to new companies specializing in solar and geothermal technology.
LacWood Industries began to produce wood pellets, and continues to sell them across the North, and a showcase $2.5-million Regional Green Technologies Centre was built.
“We wanted to diversify the economy to something that wasn’t in existence before.”
Sigouin’s successor is Sylvie Fontaine, who spent the last seven years in economic development with the municipality of Maskinonge, Que.
The two are former colleagues at Nord- Aski where Sigouin served as a business development consultant, while Fontaine was general manager.
“I think she’ll bring new ideas with new ways of doing things,” said Sigouin. “Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, and I think she will bring a lot to helping small businesses develop their programs.”
Sigouin said the transition from Hearst to Ottawa wasn’t too overwhelming, and implied that he may just find his way back to the small community in the future.
“Hearst is a very good community to live in and raise children,” he said. “I really liked my stay in Hearst and it’s not guaranteed I’ll never go back.”