Published July 7, 2022 by the Ottawa Business Journal
Alastair Baird, long-time economic development officer with the County of Renfrew, is retiring and feeling just a little guilty about it.
“It’s kind of funny to be that baby boomer now retiring,” Baird recently told EOBJ. “It’s really hitting home that, yikes, there are a lot of us and there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
While there may be much left to do, according to colleagues, Baird accomplished a great deal in his 20 years with the county. For example, he fundamentally changed the way that the economic development department engaged with businesses.
“He was instrumental in creating business sector committees to help staff and elected leaders learn more about the region’s different businesses,” said Craig Kelly, director of development and property with the county and Baird’s colleague of 17 years.
“Sector committees helped us know more about the different business sectors, so we were better able to respond and (know) how to interact with the businesses within each sector,” explained Baird, who lists his ability to form and maintain relationships, to adapt quickly and to synthesize complex issues as his main strengths.
“Alastair listened very carefully and then offered strategic advice to help get to the goal,” concurred Peter Emon, county reeve. “He had the ability to take big clumps of information and synthesize them into manageable chunks.”
Baird helped the county through several crises, including when Natural Resources Canada adopted a government-owned, contractor-operated management model at Chalk River Laboratories.
“Alastair helped to steer us through that transition and assisted us in understanding the issues and helped us get assurances from the government that they would continue funding the nuclear lab and the manufacturing that stems from it,” added Emon.
Baird’s deep understanding of local businesses and his ability to relate to them stood the county in good stead during the pandemic.
“Alastair was key in keeping businesses going through the pandemic and key in creating the recovery fund,” said Kelly.