Interview by Kate Young
When I sat down to meet with Jeff Day, the new Executive Director for Community Futures Peterborough, for the first time, I came prepared with a list of formal questions, and a vision of digging in and tackling some serious topics. After about 3 minutes, I threw my questions out, realizing that Jeff is a man who is easy to talk to, easy to relate to and who I found an easy, open rapport with. Following a conversation that was much longer than either of us expected, I walked away feeling that Peterborough’s business community is in for a pleasant surprise.
Jeff Day is a man with an impressive resume who has worked hard and made adjustments and sacrifices throughout life to get to where he is today.
Jeff started out in the tool and die industry, where he almost instantly got immersed into the business side at Ventra Plastics. It was a time when things moved very quickly and he was immediately responsible for a $15 Million tooling budget. It was an incredible experience, but it meant working in Detroit three days a week and 2 in Peterborough. Jeff worked his way through every stage of operations and eventually became the #2 man at the plant. In 2008 Jeff had a huge win for the company he was employed with, followed quickly by a disagreement based on clashing personalities which resulted in him being fired. So he moved on. He joined the Magna team and was there for about a year when Ventra called him and asked him to rejoin their team. He jumped at the opportunity to continue to build on his previous successes.
Jeff stayed with the company for about a year and a half, but continued to search out greater opportunities. His strong background in mechanics and operation had always been an asset, but he was finding that his lack of financial background was limiting his options, so he headed back to school to get a finance degree at the age of 45. At that time, a unique opportunity presented itself with Safran as a global mechanical estimator, a job he enjoyed for 5 years before the position moved back to their France location. Jeff went back to work with Magna, where he stayed for the last 6 months. He had heard that the position of Executive Director was becoming available at Community Futures Peterborough and he continued to monitor the progress of the hiring committee as he worked with them.
Though much of his work in recent years has taken him abroad, specifically Germany, Jeff always knew that he would return to his home, to work in the City of Peterborough. His strong connections to the community and his love of spending time with his family drove him to create a life that would eventually allow them to sit down to dinner together every night and regularly enjoy the many outdoor activities and sports they participate in together.
One of the key factors that became clear from my conversation with Jeff was his love for his family. His wife of 20 years, Susan, and three children, Danielle (25), Joseph (16) and Nicole (12), are obviously a great source of pride for him and they constantly motivate him to do better and create a better place for them to grow up.
When I asked Jeff what was the driving factor that led him to apply for the Executive Director position at Community Futures Peterborough, he simply answered that he wants to give hope. Intrigued, I asked for an explanation. At this point, Jeff’s character and passion for his family and the future of Peterborough shone through. He explained that he was tired of seeing the youth in our region leave, either through choice or by lack of other options, to find employment in other parts of the world. He wants them to have the option to stay and be gainfully employed in the Peterborough region again. He wants his kids, and their kids to be able to fulfill their dreams without having to move to Toronto, or across the country, or the world. Jeff feels that Peterborough is ready to return to the glory days of the 70’s and early 80’s, when jobs for all types of workers, in many different sectors were available, paid well and provided a healthy lifestyle for residents. He’s watched the workforce change its face entirely over the years and though it is a great place to live, a great place to travel to and a great place to retire, that is not why his family moved to the region in 1974. They came for the opportunities.
Jeff wants the next generations to understand that, in order to survive in today’s working world, they need to be more innovative, they need to be more creative and the simple production worker job may not be there. He also wants to inspire experienced business people to become entrepreneurs, and give people hope in following their passion.
Which led to the obvious questions… How are you planning to accomplish this?
To start, Jeff plans to listen and learn. He’ll be spending some time getting to know the business of Community Futures, their clients and partners. He’ll be making his way out into the community to meet with community organizations, businesses and leaders in the region. He plans to strengthen existing relationships and build new partnerships with the organizations that can help fulfill the mission of Community Futures. But that’s just the beginning. He’s doing the ground work to develop a plan to build a stronger future for youth, entrepreneurs and community builders in Peterborough. We’ll let Jeff get settled into the Executive Directors chair before we ask him for a full plan but he promises to outline his direction for the future in a subsequent article.
He firmly believes in the value of purchasing domestically and that Canadians choosing to buy Canadian products and choosing to partner with existing Canadian businesses could help to save the economy. He very rarely shops at big box stores and chooses locally owned whenever possible.
He did state that he is not arrogant enough to believe that he can do this alone. He wants to put a few bricks in the foundation and hopes that other people will choose to do the same.
Jeff promises to make himself available to the members of the community. He recognizes the importance and the impact that one person with a vision can have on a community and his door is open.
What are your top personal accomplishments?
1 – I’m very proud of my family, 20 years of marriage and my three children.
2 – I have worked for a wide variety of companies in a wide variety of positions and have always had Peterborough as my home-base.
3 – Being a coach to my kids soccer teams, one at rep level, one at city level. It doesn’t matter how bad a day I am having, being a coach makes it better. Spending time with my kids and being a part of the community in this way is invaluable.
4 – Our whole family is very outdoor orientated. The lessons that we learn while climbing caves and hiking, etc, have added a great deal of happiness to our lives.
5 – My family sits down to dinner together every single night.
What are your top professional accomplishments?
1 – Evolving from a skilled trade and moving up through several layers of executive positions.
2 – In 2007, another gentleman and I worked to negotiate a plan that resulted in millions of dollars worth of business for a local company that would likely be obsolete today without that deal.
3 – I had the opportunity to work in Japan on a long-term contract that resulted in millions of dollars worth of savings for the company I was working for.
4 – I had a hand in helping many companies become more efficient and improve their practices.
What do you drive?
Jeep Rubicon, a Ford Expedition and an Acura that was built in Illinois (he checked the door to make sure prior to purchase).
Cats or Dogs?
Dogs, if I have to choose. Cats with personality are pretty cool too.
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee during the day, tea in the evening… I like my herbal tea.
To play: soccer. To watch: hockey
Leafs, nationally, Pete’s, locally.
In which year did you become a Jay’s Fan?
1988 – The glory days. I can name the entire team from that year.
Favourite destination to travel to for pleasure?
Fiji or New Zealand.
Cold or warm weather?
Both! I ski, snowboard and snowshoe, waterski, camp and hike. Doesn’t matter as long as I’m outside.
James Patterson, I’ve read everything he’s written.
Forrest Gump, I’ve seen it about 30 times. I love the music. I still play the soundtrack.
Where did you go to school?
Chemong Public school, TASS and then Durham College. Athabasca University later in life.
I am very excited about this new chapter. I am heading in a completely different direction for a completely selfless reason. I am really fortunate to have been given a position that will allow me to contribute to the success of a community that I love.