ROI’s Meet the Team Series is meant to showcase some of our exceptional team members and share in their passion for all things economic development. We also have a little bit of fun to help you get to know the ROI Team more personally.
We are pleased to introduce Harold Mzobe, ROI’s VP of Operations. Harold has been with ROI since 2009 and is a seasoned veteran when it comes to all thing’s economic development—but it wasn’t always that way.
Join us as we explore how Harold’s passion for helping communities took him on a journey from dentistry in South Africa to economic development in Canada.
Can you tell us more about how yourself and how you discovered the world of economic development?
I studied dentistry in my home country of South Africa but like many young people, I wanted a new adventure. I decided to pack up my life in a car and relocate from Durban to the remote village of Ingwavuma.
I wanted to help people and combat disease—but I’d be lying if I said I was fully prepared for what I was getting into.
Moving from a large urban center like Durban to Ingwavuma, a small, remote, and impoverished village was something I had never experienced before.
But after a brief adjustment period, I really dived into life in my new community. And one thing I noticed immediately was, the hospital where I worked was the center of life in Ingwavuma. Thinking back on it now, I think that was my first taste of what economic development was and what it can do for a community—that infrastructure and jobs can change lives.
And when I eventually came to Canada in 2004, I knew I wanted to continue working in economic development and really make a career out of it.
What’s your role here at ROI? Who are you talking to?
I am VP Operations for ROI. That means I get to speak to many economic development professionals and help them strategize and manage key FDI projects happening in their region. I also have the pleasure of speaking directly with my team every day where I mentor and help them with their projects.
What attracted you to ROI and what aspect of working here do you enjoy the most?
When I first came to Canada in 2004, I was working in a tough sales environment. I was speaking with C-level executives, and I discovered that I really thrive in those kinds of roles. So, when I first heard about the economic development associate role at ROI and saw they were looking for a candidate who was comfortable speaking to high-level executives, I jumped at the opportunity to further my experience in the field.
What are ROI clients looking for in the age of Covid?
Everyone thought that come 2021, things would change back to normal. This created a lot more optimism and promising conversations about companies unfreezing their expansion plans. Unfortunately, 2021 wasn’t all it was cracked up to be—at least not yet.
Now I’m spending more time counselling clients on how to restore levels of success—how clients can adapt to a world without in-person meetings. This is not to say that nothing is happening in the economic development world. Many companies still have growth operations and plans for expansion, but we are seeing fewer activities from some industries, like manufacturing for example.
So, I would say our clients are looking for help prioritizing projects that can happen in the near term and to help lay the groundwork for future development efforts as the pandemic subsides.
What does economic development mean to you?
Economic development to me means community empowerment. I saw this firsthand in Ingwavuma when I was volunteering for programs that helped foster entrepreneurship in the community. I saw the far-reaching implications of what economic development can do for a community—everything from roads and schools to better healthcare outcomes and employment opportunities for the people who live there.
Do you think economic development gets enough press attention?
Economic developers are like stagehands, you don’t see them, but the play can’t go on without them.
So, to answer your question, I don’t think economic developers get the press attention they deserve—just like the stagehands don’t get the accolades in the newspaper reviews of the play. And it’s a shame because economic development is a true driver of communities and is something that needs to be talked about more.
Do you have an inspirational quote you enjoy?
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ― Desmond Tutu
If you could compare yourself to an animal, what would it be and why?
Wolf – I’m protective, loyal, a fighter, a bit of a loner at times, and I often find myself howling at the moon.
Cats or dogs?
Coffee or tea?