In 1999 new municipal legislation was introduced that changed the working environment significantly for municipal governments. The Municipalities Act, 1999 provided councils with the authority to participate in economic development activities, including the ownership of property and businesses. Only four years previously, a federal-provincial Task Force on Community Economic Development had recommended the establishment of 17 economic zones, each with an associated Regional Economic Development Board (REDB). Municipalities had guaranteed seats on the REDBs and it became clear that training was necessary for councillors to make the best use of these new entities.
Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (then the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities) approached ACOA with the idea of a series of workshops to introduce councillors to the REDBs and the strategic economic plans being prepared by them at the time.
A series of very successful workshops followed, reach nearly 140 municipalities. Once completed, it became clear that more training was required. A second round of workshops were delivered with a focus on introducing participants to the foundations of community economic development. Over 150 municipalities participated in this round of training and led to increasing requests for ideas and best practices.
The next iteration of what would become Local Action for Developing Regions (LADR) saw MNL Directors, municipal councillors and REDB Directors and staff participate in a series of five international and national study tours. These tours collected best practices on the role of municipalities in economic development which, in turn, became the basis for a third round of workshops.
After two years of these workshops, MNL refocused to larger workshops which were really small, regional conferences. These events brought sector experts together with municipal participants in an effort to raise awareness of key sectors in each region and to focus municipal contributions to economic growth.