Tracy Stroud has worn many hats throughout the years in economic development, and with every different viewpoint she’s supported, she’s always believed in motivated and determined business owners, workers, and innovators since she moved to Medicine Hat in 2008.
“I love helping companies grow, because they create jobs and a sense of purpose for a lot of people — they help create a sense of identity with the work they do and the value they’re adding,” says Stroud. “A lot of these business owners put their heart and soul into these companies. I want to support that. I grew up with entrepreneurial parents. I saw the day-to-day struggle to make a profit. I thought, growing up, there has to be an easier way,”
Currently, as the Regional Innovation Network Manager, Southeast Alberta, for APEX Alberta, Stroud constantly creates, collaborates with, and finds resources for tech-based innovation business owners who reach out to learn and grow in their industry.
“Knowing there are a number of accessible financial and educational supports that are free for companies, I always want to share and make it easier for people to find and receive that help. Albertans are very entrepreneurial, and between our partners - Alberta Innovates, Medicine Hat College and Community Futures Entre-Corp/Chinook, we have support for every business owner from start to selling,” says Stroud.
Stroud graduated with her hotel and resort management degree at University of Calgary, and then did financial appraisals for hotels across Canada while Vancouver-based, before moving to Southeast Alberta.
Once in Medicine Hat, she worked with the Economic Development Alliance of Southeast Alberta for four years, helping rural business owners access support across the region, as well as coordinating both the energy and agriculture stakeholder committees.
“The experience and knowledge I gained from business owners and professionals in renewables, oil and gas, and agriculture was priceless,” says Stroud. “I am thankful to this day for everything they taught me, and I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.”
After that role, Stroud worked with companies with hiring needs as well as unemployed individuals in her position with Alberta Works.
“It was a very eye-opening experience for me, because I saw how many people, of all ages, in Southeast Alberta struggled with the different barriers they faced during employment. We would hold hiring events and that was amazing. Seeing people with barriers find employment was the greatest feeling.”
For six years after, she worked at Medicine Hat College where one of her roles was to lead Innovation and the Entrepreneur Development Centre (EDC). Along with re-energizing the EDC, Stroud and her team organized the installation of the first solar canopy and charging stations at a post-secondary school in Alberta at the time, and Stroud was the driving force in receiving the funding for the project.
“I loved my early days with the Entrepreneur Development Centre, and it's great to see many of those student businesses still thriving today. At that point, there was a lot of rebuilding, but there were a lot of firsts celebrated too.”
For over a year now, Stroud has worked with APEX Alberta and is proud to announce they’ve doubled their first year of funding from Alberta Innovates, which was received to do the flight plan on how to create a tech-innovation hub for the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems sector across Alberta.
“We have assets in this region that are really strong, and they continue to make us a leader in the area. Having the Foremost UAS Test Range, as well as Defense Research and Development Canada, Canadian Forces, and the British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) in one place creates great opportunities for innovation and is key to why companies like Qinetiq and Atlantis are here,” says Stroud. “I know more activity can come from this, and I really feel aerospace and defense is a big opportunity for us and will be for years to come.”
Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems are growing fast across Alberta, and the region has a lot of assets to support this industry. Growing, rebuilding, strengthening, and achieving are Stroud’s most prominent characteristics, and she’s determined to support this project and all other tech and innovation business owners to the finish line.
“We shouldn’t leave people behind; we should raise everybody up in our communities. There is a lot of support out there, and with our partners we have a broad network. Reach out and ask questions. If it seems overwhelming, we’re here to help navigate.”