Roger Haessel studied and graduated with his Bachelor of Commerce Degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He worked in banking for several years in Toronto before completing his MBA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
While living in the U.S., he worked in various roles with both Sabre Corporation, a travel technology company, and American Express.
By 2007, it was time to return to the place that felt most like home in Alberta, Canada, where he joined the Community Futures program. After a short stint as a Business Analyst in Pincher Creek, Roger became a Rural Diversification Project Officer in Cochrane.
“It was here that I managed the Rural Diversification Initiative grant program funded through what is now known as PrairiesCan, to support CF offices in leading rural economic development projects. One of the projects we were able to fund enabled Community Futures Entre-Corp to develop a technology strategy for Southeast Alberta,” says Haessel.
In 2011, building on its regional technology strategy, Community Futures Entre-Corp was selected by Alberta Innovates to lead the Regional Innovation Network (RIN) for Southeast Alberta, and Haessel was recruited to manage the RIN now known as APEX Alberta.
“This was the project I helped get off the ground and fund through the Rural Diversification Initiative grant program. It was a great opportunity, so I accepted the position and moved to Medicine Hat,” says Haessel.
The focus of Community Futures Entre-Corp and APEX Alberta is to help as many rural and tech-innovative entrepreneurs and small businesses as possible, “It’s so fulfilling to help an entrepreneur get their business off the ground, grow, or help them tear down barriers and find funding for their idea or initiative.”
During this time, Haessel also worked with the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems (CCUVS) as their executive director in Medicine Hat. But, in 2015 the organization decided to transition its assets to the Village of Foremost, to establish the Foremost UAS Test Range.
For the next few years, he volunteered overseas and took on various management consulting projects. In 2022, Haessel was recruited once again to join APEX Alberta in striving to develop a roadmap for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (“RPAS” also commonly known as drones) and help grow the industry across the province.
“The industry is at a critical point, and it feels good to be a part of it. Not only is the RPAS industry growing quickly in terms of manufacturing and flying, but Alberta has significant industries that can benefit from the application of RPAS. We have a large commercial footprint in agriculture, forestry, mining, oil and gas — there are a lot of areas where Alberta can be a prime beneficiary of this technology.”
Along with their focus on the province’s RPAS industry, the team at APEX Alberta also looks for cutting edge opportunities that keep Southeast Alberta at the forefront of what technology is out there and then finding out where the business opportunity is with it.
“The team is very passionate about what they do, and there is a strong desire to facilitate regional economic growth. Looking for opportunities and seeking out solutions to the many challenges faced by small businesses, as a means to grow the economy, is really something great to be a part of,” says Haessel.
Haessel says the industry is ready to take flight. People now understand how transformational the technology can be. Regulations have progressed significantly. Education has grown significantly. The development is happening and being implemented now. The technology is a lot more advanced, and the impacts are more noticeable.
“RPAS technology is going to keep being developed and the applications are going to keep expanding. There are a lot of assets here in Alberta that position us very strongly to lead this industry,” says Haessel. “We’re learning and hopefully making a difference for Alberta.”