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Lemaire looks ahead at his CPMA leadership role

by Tad Thompson | April 05, 2011

The arrival of a new leader at the helm of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association does not mean there will be sudden changes.

Ron Lemaire is the new president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.

Alain Routhier, chairman of CPMA's board of directors, announced Ron Lemaire March 1 as the new president of CPMA. On April 1, Mr. Lemaire succeeded Dan Dempster, who is somewhat retiring from the Ottawa, ON-based association; Mr. Dempster will continue to work on a part-time consulting basis with CPMA for another year.

"Coming in, I don't think anyone should anticipate rapid change," Mr. Lemaire said of his new role in a March 14 telephone interview with The Produce News. His immediate plan is to sit with the association's volunteer industry leadership and professional staff to review current operations. He intends to spend six months analyzing opportunities and gaps in association operations.

Mr. Lemaire said that he generally will focus on the strategic needs to support the vertically integrated membership of the association, which represents all aspects of an industry spanning from farm gate to dinner plate.

New programs will align with CPMA's mission and vision, with the expectation that such work will remain solidly positioned for the next five or 10 years, Mr. Lemaire said.

The new president said CPMA is "an organization that has been viable and grown progressively for almost 90 years." He noted his "goal is not to flip the ship upside down but to ensure the ship is running successfully" as it did "for over 35 years" under the leadership of Mr. Dempster, who Mr. Lemaire described as "a true leader in the industry and a true mentor. My goal is to expand CPMA and take it beyond where he has taken it."

Mr. Lemaire said that he is "fortunate" that Mr. Dempster will be consulting on a part-time basis with CPMA for another year. "I am very pleased about that. He will add a tremendous value to where we need to go in the future."

In the produce industry, Mr. Lemaire said, "The Canadian market is truly dynamic. We have the luxury of a strong domestic market and we have an extremely strong import market because of the [short] length of the growing season" in Canada.

Mr. Lemaire said that Canada's produce industry is "exciting" because all components work toward the goal of supporting retailers with the right product to suit their markets. Critical to this is having "grower-shippers get the right product to them."

This is Mr. Lemaire's second tenure with CPMA. He previously served as its director of marketing, and then was executive vice president until 2008.

Mr. Lemaire attended Ottawa's Carleton University from 1988 until 1991, earning a degree in combined majors of law and sociology. Prior to first joining CPMA, he worked in non-profit fundraising in the health realm and he was for three years the marketing manager of the Montreal Expos AAA baseball squad.

He left CPMA, which he said has 15 employees and a $3.5 million budget, to work as vice president of market development for the Canada Green Building Council, which had 35 employees and a $7 million budget. The recent experience, he said, provides him with a "more refined and focused skill set for strategic planning" and other management strengths, which include contract negotiations and program development.