Healthy communities ‘rooted in local business success’

In his second week as executive director of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, Robert Gaudette said his number one priority is talking to members.

“I don’t want to make the mistake of coming in and thinking I know anything,” Gaudette said. “I want to hear their experiences. I want to know what their unique needs are and what challenges or successes they have had.

He added that there is no point in establishing an approach that does not match the needs of members, so he will collect data and information to establish a solid foundation to move forward. Gaudette said this will apply to advocacy, buying power for groups, and accessing programs and funding opportunities.

He began his career in the mid-1990s as an entrepreneur in the world of technology.

It was a chance to “immerse yourself in the business and how it works and learn everything from operations to marketing.” He would then become a partner in a tech company and “learn the roller coaster of what it’s like to be a business owner.”


Fast forward 20 years and living in Toronto with his wife, the two have navigated his cancer diagnosis. She is fine today but Gaudette realized he needed a more stable career with benefits. He dabbled in marketing and non-profit and social enterprises as well as employment services. At one time, he ran a coffee shop and a 5,000 square foot carpentry training center. His most recent job was with the John Howard Skills Development Society. He has served on groups and tables and sits on the boards of the Workplace Development Board and Literacy Ontario Center South.

He acknowledged the housing and transportation issues in Haliburton County, but thinks one way to tackle those obstacles is to increase the local workforce.

“You really want to improve your community and have a great local economy where talent doesn’t have to leave for careers,” he said.

In the short term, this involves coordinating with local training providers, ensuring employers are aware of existing programs available to them, including government initiatives. He mentions that SIRCH, Fleming College and the John Howard Society are doing good things. He thinks he has a lot to offer on the technology side to help businesses with digital and online spaces.

The chamber also hopes to revive its prices this year. Gaudette said frontline workers have gotten a lot of recognition during COVID, but business owners — who have had to pivot, take out loans, cover staff shortages and understand the change in public health policy — don’t. haven’t done it.

“I strongly believe that healthy communities are rooted in the success of local businesses. It creates opportunities, employment opportunities and supports the local economy. If we don’t address that, that facet of community, I think that leads to a lot of social problems.

Welcoming Gaudette, Chamber Speaker Mark Bell said, “I am delighted that Robert is taking on this important role. His vast experience and local knowledge will help us accelerate the implementation of the new strategic plan developed by the Board of Directors. I would also like to thank Amanda Conn, our outgoing Executive Director, for her contribution as she heads into a new opportunity.”

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