Alberta Grains' executive director reflects on first quarter

Harley Groeneveld, Marketing Communications Specialist | Alberta Grains

It’s been a whirlwind few months on the job for Michael Flynn, Alberta Grains’ inaugural executive director who officially began his tenure with the organization on November 1, 2023. Not only did he participate in a number of media interviews before his formal start date, Flynn was thrust into the world of Alberta agriculture headfirst with a provincial tour starting in Lethbridge and ending in Grande Prairie for regional meetings and elections, he also met hundreds of industry members including farmers, researchers, and politicians at the sixth annual Prairie Cereal Summit in early December.

“I was fortunate to start at the perfect time to get the ultimate crash course on the commission and its membership as a whole,” said Flynn, “within my first few weeks, we were already on the road for regional meetings across the province where we elected our new board of directors and delegates, and following that up in December was the organization’s crown jewel, the Prairie Cereal Summit in Banff, which was a resounding success and allowed me instant access to connect with farmers from all corners of the province, and even across Canada.”

While he may lack a background in agriculture, Flynn’s skillset, drive and previous experience across multiple sectors allowed him to smoothly transition into his new role.

Flynn’s experience as an executive director began over 20 years ago with the Calgary Police Commission (CPC), where he acted as the interface between the commission, the citizens of Calgary, the Police Service, the City of Calgary and other agencies. From there, he spent time as an executive advisor with then, Mount Royal College, providing advice on strategic business initiatives, financial planning and budgetary matters leading to their transition to university status. He would then spend the next seven years serving as the executive director for the Urban Development Institute (UDI). He was again responsible for working in partnership with the City of Calgary and associated stakeholder groups to promote and advocate for residential development. Between then and now, he held two more executive director roles – one with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Land Administration and most recently with FireSmart Alberta.

“All of my roles had been in very different sectors of the economy, so I’ve almost always been faced with a steep learning curve coming in, but I’ve actually found that to be beneficial,” says the newly appointed executive director. “I didn’t know anything about (the oil and gas) industry, but I was able to quickly become acclimatized and understand the issues and effectively communicate with the membership, so I’m accustomed to drilling down into what’s important in these associations and then trying to find the best way to facilitate getting it done.”

A common trend throughout Flynn’s career has been his commitment to organizations that positively impact Alberta. Throughout his time with CPC and UDI, he dealt with an array of stakeholders and focused on increasing accessibility and accountability, while his time with FireSafe led him to rural communities throughout Alberta where he developed formal partnerships and relationships with stakeholders of every level, further cementing his passion for giving back to the province.

“I’m a born and raised Albertan who is proud to call this province home and deeply care about the impacts we have on our land and people,” says Flynn. “I think the recognition for our farmers and industry as a whole has been lacking in recent years, and I’m determined to make Alberta Grains a model association that’s recognized as a proper economic driver with our farmers at the forefront.”

Flynn is confident from all he’s seen and heard so far that goal will soon be a reality, and the newly elected Alberta Grains board of directors says the feeling is mutual.

“Mike was a perfect fit for what we were looking for in an executive director and we couldn’t be happier with the energy, enthusiasm and fresh perspective he’s brought to the commission so far,” said Tara Sawyer, Alberta Grains interim chair and region two director, farming out of Acme, Alberta. “His track record of leading multiple, diverse organizations that positively contribute to Albertans, along with his experience collaborating with partners and stakeholders of all levels allowed him to seamlessly transition into the role to provide immediate strategic and operational leadership to the organization.”

As the newly appointed executive director, he is excited about the prospect of championing the Alberta Grains story and establishing its brand nationally and internationally as an industry leader. Flynn sees a tremendous opportunity to help tell the story of the province’s 18,000+ wheat and barley farmers and can't wait to get started with the newly elected board of directors, who will take their seats following the Alberta Grains annual general meeting on January 31, 2024, at the Crossroads Crop Conference in Calgary.