International honours for Knowles, AEDC

International honours for Knowles, AEDC

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PHOTO: Barry Matherly (left), chair of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and Greg Hitchin, chair of the IEDC awards advisory committee present the excellence in economic development gold award to the AEDC, represented here by executive director Garry McKinnon and community development advisor Gord Knowles, for its leadership in the development of the Heart of the Continent geo-tourism project. Knowles was also named the IEDC’s young economic development professional of the year.          (IEDC PHOTO)


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By just about any standard, Atikokan is a small, remote town.

But if you have anything to do with economic development, you probably think otherwise these days. The Atikokan Economic Development Corp. has won more accolades for its accomplishments, this time from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

On September 26, the IEDC named Gord Knowles its Young Economic Development Professional of the Year, and presented its Excellence in Economic Development gold award to the AEDC for its leadership in the development of the Heart of Continent geo-tourism website.

“Congratulations to Gordon Knowles. His outstanding achievements and dedicated service to his community go above and beyond to improve the lives of others and honour the economic development profession,” said IEDC chair Barry Matherly (he is also CEO of the Greater Richmond (Virginia) Partnership).

Knowles  earned a similar honour earlier this year from the Economic Developers Council of Ontario.

He was also directly involved in the Heart of the Continent project, the development of its geo-tourism website, and the partnership with National Geographic that gave it immediate credibility with travellers.

“Not only did [the AEDC] work to provide a necessary service to their community, but also, their participation in the awards program sheds light on their stellar projects which other communities can now use a benchmark,” said Matherly, in announcing the Gold Award.

IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. These awards honour organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

“The awards process is a thorough, non-biased and multi-layered,” said Matherly. “These are extraordinary accomplishments for all winners, and an overall great effort by all participants. We look forward to next year’s awards competition.”

The Heart of the Continent’s geo-tourism project is a collaborative effort done to stimulate and promote tourism and the ‘outdoor experience’ in northern Ontario and northern Minnesota, using the strength of National Geographic’s brand.

The project is part of the objective of the Heart of the Continent Partnership (HOCP), which formed to bring together members and other local stakeholders to collaborate on non-partisan, bi-national projects. From a regional cooperation of land managers in Canada and the USA, the HOCP has grown into a group fostering tourism, scientific and volunteer projects meant to improve the well-being of both nations.

Atikokan Economic Development Corp. has been a driving force of the HOCP for a number of years and is the central office to its headquarters; their extensive experience with the tourism industry and economic development helps to further the organization and its projects.

The website project brought together stakeholders on both sides of the border who raised in excess of $250,000 to plan and execute the website, mobile application and map. The basis of the project was universal to develop a common identity for the region beyond provincial or national borders, defining the area instead by its geography, its history and its people.


The leadership award is designed to recognize outstanding achievement by a young, emerging leader in the economic development profession.

Gord Knowles has served as AEDC community development advisor since 2010. His portfolio includes client coaching, loan disbursal and compliance, community economic development, tourism projects, delivery of employment programs, and community outreach to not-for-profit organizations.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton University, a Certificate in Economic Development from the University of Waterloo, as well as CEcD and Ec.D economic development accreditations. He also holds accreditation as an APEC Certified Business Counsellor and certification through the Community Futures Leadership Institute as both a business analyst and community economic development coordinator.

Knowles sits on the Economic Developers Council of Ontario’s (EDCO) board of directors, and now chairs its professional development committee. He is also chair of the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporation’s youth committee and is a member emeritus of the Atikokan Not-For-Profit Day Care Corp., after serving for six years as treasurer. He is a steering committee member of the Heart of the Continent Partnership and liaises their project coordinator, and locally serves with parent councils at both the Atikokan High School and St. Patrick’s School. In 2015 Gord created Tourism Atikokan, in collaboration with the municipality and Tourism Northern Ontario.

International Economic Development Council

The IEDC is a non-profit membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 4,700 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base. From public to private, rural to urban, and local to international, IEDC’s members are engaged in the full range of economic development experience. Given the breadth of economic development work, our members are employed in a wide variety of settings including local, state, provincial and federal governments, public-private partnerships, chambers of commerce, universities and a variety of other institutions. IEDC’s members create high-quality jobs, develop vibrant communities and improve the quality of life in their regions.

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