Town of Claresholm welcomes new economic development officer

economic development - The Town of Claresholm has hired a new Economic Development Officer. From left are Santanna Thom, vice-chair of the Economic Development Committee; Mayor Doug MacPherson; Brady Schnell, the new Economic Development Officer; Justin Sweeney, outgoing Economic Development Officer; and Paul Zemlak, chair of the Economic Development Committee. Photo by Rob Vogt

By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer

A new Economic Development Officer has joined the Town of Claresholm.

Brady Schnell started his new job on April 9, and he brings a wealth of expertise.

Originally from Pincher Creek, Schnell has a degree in business from the University of Lethbridge with a major in finance.

He also has more than four years experience in post-secondary government at Medicine Hat College and the University of Lethbridge.

Schnell then worked for the Town of Coaldale in corporate services and assisted the development officer.

Most recently he was the chief administrative officer with the Village of Champion.

“It’s been really great,” Schnell said of his first week, and welcoming. “There’s a positive atmosphere.”

Schnell spent his first week working with Justin Sweeney, the out-going EDO, where they met with town council, the economic development committee, Lethbridge College advisory council, attended the town open house, and met other stakeholders.

“It’s fantastic to do some trial by fire,” Sweeney said.

He noted the overlap period is important.

“There is no time when this extremely important position is vacant,” he said, adding they are able to facilitate a robust hand-off of knowledge and information.

“It was a good week for me to start,” Schnell said. “I’ve just met so many people.”

He observed he has a similar way of working as Sweeney.

“We have a very similar skill set and similar approach,” Schnell said.

Sweeney agreed it is a good time to start. Schnell can implement a large number of projects that have been set up as he sits with the EDC to map out 2019.

“He gets the opportunity to learn by doing,” he said. “That way we don’t have a decrease in momentum.”

Those projects include a land development project; continuation of the signage program, featuring gateway signs to the entrances to town; an investment attraction sales package; and capacity building, including learning opportunities for existing business on succession, marketing, e-commerce and other topics.

The Economic Development Office is located in the former Claresholm Elementary School building, and they have an open door policy.

“I feel very good that it will continue along the same path,” said Mayor Doug MacPherson of economic development.

“It’s the grassroots of our growth,” he added. “It’s becoming an important part of the town.

“I’m pretty positive about the whole thing.”

The town used a recruitment firm to fill the position, attracting 56 applications which were carefully vetted.

Seven candidates were interviewed with two invited to do a Powerpoint presentation for the hiring committee.

Marian Carlson, the town’s chief administrative officer, headed the process and had input from Paul Zemlak and Santanna Thom, the chair and vice-chair of the town’s Economic Development Committee.

“They both bring very unique perspectives,” Carlson said. “We had a well-rounded committee that looked at it from a number of angles.”

She added Sweeney built a good foundation, and they wanted someone who could hit the ground running and move projects forward.

“The one who can keep the momentum going,” Zemlak said.

He added he likes that Schnell is from Pincher Creek, somewhat of a sister community to Claresholm.

Thom said she liked the knowledge Schnell brings of towns that are growing.

“You were speaking our language,” she said.