Within every team there is a coaching staff or in this case management who helps lead the direction of the team and helps ensure goals are achieved. For York Region Economic Development that is no different. Our big picture goals are established by York Regional Council every four years and can be found in the 2020 – 2023 Economic Development Action Plan. How those goals are achieved are guided by the Economic Development management team.
As we continue our team spotlights we’re going to have a chat with the newest member of the management team, Charles Banfield. He stepped into the Manager, Strategic Economic Initiatives role within Economic Development in early 2020, but that doesn’t mean he’s new to our team. He’s a seasoned pro on the efforts of our strategic economic initiatives team having spent many years working with us as a Policy and Project Development Specialist.
We picked his brain with a couple of questions about what he does at work and outside of work, so let’s see what Charles had to say.
The idea of what a manager does is probably well engrained in the minds of our readers, but help them understand what it means in the context of your role.
With significant assistance and input from my exemplary team, I oversee a broad portfolio that includes agriculture & agri-food, innovation, tourism, broadband, post-secondary attraction and support, smart city/intelligent community initiatives and the York Small Business Enterprise Centre, which provides training and support services for entrepreneurs and small businesses based in York Region’s northern six cities and towns.
Given the volume of work and the skill level of my team, I try my best to stay out of their way and focus my efforts on ensuring they have the support and guidance to do their jobs. I’m also heavily involved in cultivating strategic relationships with local municipal economic development staff, provincial and federal ministries and agencies, chambers of commerce and boards of trade, post-secondary and innovation partners like ventureLAB, and various industry organizations. It’s a challenging, stimulating and rewarding role, and no two days are the same.
That sounds like quite a variety of portfolios to manage, what’s your favourite part of it all?
It is difficult to pin-point a single favourite thing about my work given the breadth of our portfolio. I enjoy working with my colleagues and partners to develop and deliver programs and other initiatives to assist the local business community. I enjoy learning about the amazingly innovative entrepreneurs and businesses that in many ways are shaping the future of our economy.
If I had to pick a single favourite aspect of my job it would be the opportunity to be involved in big-picture “legacy initiatives” that will resonate for generations.
I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of the efforts that have resulted in the establishment of a York University campus in the region, the deployment of an ORION Point of Presence at Southlake Regional Health Centre, and the formation of YorkNet. I’m excited to see what will come next!
Those are some impressive accomplishments to be a part of! What do you to take your mind off of work?
I like to keep active and my mind stimulated, so I’m the worst person to ask about the best Netflix or Amazon series to binge watch. Though if you are a fan of the Star Wars universe, I recommend The Mandalorian on Disney Plus. That said, I enjoy practicing and teaching Karate, weight training, being taken for long walks by my dog or immersing myself in an interesting book. I also love to barbeque…year-round.
Besides braving the cold winters to barbeque, what’s something else notable about yourself that might surprise people?
I am a big nerd for history and martial arts and in 2019 I combined these two interests into a side-project called Karate Canucks. This initiative explores the history of Canadian Martial Arts through the stories of people who have helped shape this history.