Meet the COEDC – Laurel Douglas

Meet the COEDC November 28, 2022

Editors Intro:

For those who may not know, the COEDC Advisory Council is a conduit of information between business, community leaders and government. The council meets monthly to share information and work together towards sustainable economic growth. It is made up of 45 influential members consisting of industry leaders, community shapers and elected officials. One of these such members being Laurel Douglas!

Since May 2020, she has been CEO of ETSI-BC, which administers a $50 million endowment to support economic development in the Southern Interior region of BC. From 2004-2020, she was CEO of Women`s Enterprise Centre, an award-winning non-profit business support organization that provides business loans, advisory services, training, mentoring, and export support to women entrepreneurs throughout BC.

Prior to that, Laurel spent 16 years in the tech sector. In the late 1990s, she was the founding Executive Director of the tech accelerator now known as Accelerate Okanagan and a co-founder of the BC Regional Science & Technology Network. She then spent several years working in partnership with IRAP, the National Research Council`s flagship R&D funding program, as a Senior Business Advisor, helping tech companies develop marketing strategies and access capital, and spearheading a BC-wide industry cluster initiative.

Prior to making the shift to economic development, her corporate career spanned senior underwriting, business development, and strategic planning roles in the tech sector in Canada, France, Germany, and the UK, with major telecom equipment manufacturers and financial services firms. Ms. Douglas has been a co-founder or angel investor in several tech ventures along the way. Prior to arriving in the Okanagan in the late 1990s, Laurel spent several years living, working, and volunteering in the West Kootenays, and was appointed to the founding Advisory Committee of the Columbia Basin Trust.

A strong supporter of diversity and inclusion, and the important role that post-secondary institutions play in economic development, she has served on many regional, and national boards and committees related to these themes. Some recent highlights:

  • Economic Development Commission of Central Okanagan, Advisory Board member (2003 – present)
  • UBC-Okanagan, External Community Advisory Committee Member (2013 – present)
  • Justice Institute of BC, Member of the Board of Governors (2019 – present)
  • WE FOR SHE, Organizing Partner (2014 – 2019)
  • Women`s Enterprise Organizations of Canada, Board & Executive Committee Member (2011 – 2020)
  • Provincial Degree Quality Assessment Board (2012 – 2018)

Named the 2020 Business Leader of the Year by the Kelowna Chamber, Laurel frequently mentors newcomers and recent grads. She has represented Canada at numerous international events, such as the G7 Finance Ministers` Summit, APEC, the G20 women`s engagement group (the W20), of which she was a member from 2016-2020. She earned an MBA at INSEAD in France, a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Community Economic Development from SFU, and an Honours BBA from WLU.

The aim of the Meet the COEDC campaign is to share with our community who the Economic Development Commission is and showcase the COEDC Advisory Council members who play a critical role guiding the regional economic development service.

Continue reading to learn more about Laurel’s outlook on industry specific trends and forecasts for the Central Okanagan! And check in each Monday to meet a new member of the Advisory Council, and to learn why they love to live and work in the Central Okanagan!

What organization are you from and what is your role?

I’ve been leading economic development and business support organizations in the Okanagan since 1997. In my role at ETSI-BC, I get to work with all the great organizations like the COEDC that are helping build the economy of our region.

ETSI-BC is like a Community Foundation that provides funding, resources and knowledge to local governments, First Nations communities, non-profit business support organizations and public post-secondary institutions in the BC Southern Interior. We work with economic development practitioners in the 53 municipalities, 9 Regional Districts and 32 First Nations in our region, along with the many Chambers of Commerce, Community Futures, industry associations and post-secondary institutions.

Over the years, ETSI-BC has provided funding of over $66 million for projects worth over $255 million, that have helped grow and diversify the economy of the region and strengthen its economic underpinnings. This funding has helped create or maintain over 11,000 jobs in the region.


What excites you about the future of your respective sector?

Since joining ETSI-BC in 2020, I’ve been excited to help steer the organization into its next chapter. We held intensive consultations with all our stakeholders in 2020, who helped shape our new direction, which we launched in early 2021.

I’ve been delighted to see the warm reception that the new ETSI-BC has enjoyed from the economic development practitioners we work with. We’ve been able to support some exciting projects since we launched ETSI-BC in early 2021. Some notable recent local projects we’ve had the honour to support include

  • the COEDC Cleantech study,
  •  the Southern Interior Regional Economic Summit being organized by the Kelowna Chamber, and
  •  the Film Fundamentals training being hosted by the Okanagan Film Commission.

These projects will each contribute greatly to the economy of the Okanagan region and are just 3 of 86 projects that were funded by ETSI-BC in fiscal 2021-22, which together have helped create or maintain almost 5,400 jobs in the Southern Interior.


Why is participating in the Advisory Council important to you?

It’s been an honour to be part of the COEDC Advisory Board because of the connection to the local business community and other economic development practitioners that it facilitates.

At the beginning of COVID, Krista and the COEDC provided valuable leadership in bringing together the groups that support the business community. This collaboration among the various organizations and agencies is extremely valuable.

It’s great to have such a strong network that I can reach out to for feedback on new initiatives, and insight into what the region needs.


Why do you love living and working in the Okanagan?

I first moved to Kelowna in 1997, after spending almost 10 years living in Europe, working in the telecom and financial services sectors. Six of those years were spent in France, so moving to the country’s pre-eminent wine region when I returned to Canada was a bonus.

I grew up in southwestern Ontario and worked in Toronto, so I am thankful to have spent the last 25 years enjoying the climate, and the beautiful landscapes the Okanagan has to offer.

I’m also thankful for the great people I’ve had the privilege to work and collaborate with here in BC. There is a spirit of comraderie, openness, collaboration and innovation in the Okanagan that is very special. The region is a draw for resourceful people who like adventure, their natural surroundings and being active. This is a great combination which bodes well for our region’s future.


Learn more about ETSI-BC and how we’re contributing to this thriving and dynamic region here.