Donna Gillespie recognized for significant contribution to local economic development

Donna Gillespie at the EDCO Conference 2024, where she was awarded the Joseph A. Montgomery Economic Development Achievement Award. Also pictured, Nour Mazloum, Marketing & Communications Manager for Kingston Economic Development. Photo via Kingston Economic Development.

Kingston’s Donna Gillespie has been awarded the Joseph A. Montgomery Economic Development Achievement Award for her work here in the Limestone City for more than 15 years.

Gillespie was bestowed the honour during the president’s dinner and awards ceremony of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO), held on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Toronto.

The award, representing the EDCO’s highest honour in economic development, pays tribute to the legacy of Joseph A. Montgomery, who was a driving force behind the establishment of the EDCO and the Economic Development Association of Canada, according to a release from Kingston Economic Development, where Gillespie is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). She has worked at Kingston Economic Development since 2007, and has been CEO of the organization since June 2017.

“I’ve had the privilege of working alongside Donna for almost a decade. Witnessing the remarkable transformation in our local economy and within the economic development office has been truly inspiring. Donna is a team player and collaborator; her ability to unite talented individuals towards overarching community goals is admirable. This award is a well-deserved recognition!” Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson said in a statement.

Joseph A. Montgomery’s impactful career in Niagara Falls laid the foundation for the flourishing economic development profession we witness today, Kingston Economic Development stated. According to the release, Gillespie’s recognition mirrors the dedication and pioneering spirit exemplified by Montgomery, and her contributions that have “significantly shaped” both the community and the economic development profession.

The local economic development agency noted that Gillespie’s influence extends across various initiatives, citing the creation of the Kingston Film Office and the the first Kingston Arts Awards of Excellence, as well as her “pivotal role” in establishing the Kingston-Syracuse Pathway. A tribute video played at the awards ceremony noted, “Donna brought Canada Royal Milk to Kingston, which was the largest foreign direct investment in agriculture business in Ontario and Canada at the time.”

As one of the founding members of the Great Lakes Economic Development Council, Gillespie has consistently demonstrated leadership and vision, Kingston Economic Development said.

“Not only did Donna rebuild this organization with integrity and discipline, but also she has led the organization through a significant strategic refocusing effort that has aligned Kingston with one of the most significant changes to our economy in generations,” said Anne Vivian-Scott, Chair of the Board of Directors for Kingston Economic Development.

“On behalf of the board, I want to congratulate Donna on winning this award and to thank her for making Kingston such a wonderful place to grow my business.”

The Joseph A. Montgomery Economic Development Achievement Award is a celebration of excellence, and Donna Gillespie’s name now stands alongside three other recipients since 2017. A list of past winners is available on the EDCO website:

“I am extremely honoured to be recognized by EDCO for the work I have done. Economic developers have a great opportunity to have a positive impact on their communities — supporting entrepreneurs, attracting new investment and creating an environment for business success,” Gillespie stated.

“I’m tremendously grateful to have strong leadership on the Board and a rockstar team to support me along the way.”

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