McSweeney- McSweeney Perspectives

June 2012

Learn the "Value of Investing in Canadian Downtowns"

A national "first of its kind" study on the value of investing in Canadian downtowns has recently been released. The International Downtowns Association - Canadian Issues Task Force engaged the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) to carry out this ground breaking research.

The project examined 10 Canadian downtowns (Halifax, Fredericton, Ottawa, Toronto, London, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria) to measure performance and build the body of knowledge on value created in downtowns as a result of investments made. It is hoped that the research will spur further investment in downtowns across Canada.

Key Findings:

  1. Canadian downtowns are enjoying a period of renaissance. Downtowns are moving in positive directions such as: residential growth; building unique education, culture and entertainment offerings; while maintaining a position of commercial strength.
  2. Partnerships and long term commitment are crucial to maiximize revitalization efforts. The health of downtown is strongly tied to successful collaborations and partnerships aligned behind an inspired and shared vision.
  3. Residential growth is transforming downtowns across the country. Downtowns have experienced a renaissance in downtown living, achieving as much as 83% population growth over 10 years.
  4. Downtowns are maintaining a strong commercial position. While less dominant in the office and retail markets than in the past, many are experiencing a resurgence of office growth, and there are promising signs that retail will develop alternate smaller formats better suited to downtowns.
  5. Institutions have brought many inspiring additions to Canada's downtowns. The growth of downtown post-secondary education has substantially strengthened downtowns, and in some cases, changes have been transformational.
  6. Downtowns are making a major contribution to the bottom line of municipalities. While frequently occupying as little as 1% of citywide land area, downtowns often generate 10 to 20 times that in terms of municipal tax revenues, and in a few cases as much as 20-25% of all municipal tax revenues.
  7. Public investments on a range of scales create the foundation for future private investment. Public investments in arts, culture, entertainment, education, transit, open space and incentives downtown signal confidence and support for downtowns, which leads to the stimulation of private sector investment.
  8. Measuring performance of downtowns empowers decision makers to understand the value of downtowns. Continued measurement of downtown performance through time will further demonstrate and reinforce the value of public investing in downtown.

The full report is available here.

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Challenges & Tips on Integrating Economic Development & Sustainability

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), a Canadian leader in municipal sustainability and supporter of the Green Municipal Fund, has recently been exploring how sustainability is being integrated into local economic development initiatives across Canada.

Working in conjunction with the Economic Developers Association of Canada (EDAC), FCM engaged McSweeney & Associates, in partnership with Grant Consulting, to conduct further research on the topic in March 2012. Based upon the results of interviews with a variety of sustainable economic development champions from across the country, findings were compiled in an Overview of Trends and Best Practices in Sustainable Economic Development.

This overview report then acted as a primer for a facilitated focus group session of participants from across Canada. The session topics included the barriers to integration of sustainability and economic development, what is working well now, and the potential solutions to overcome the identified barriers based upon the real world experiences of the participants in implementing the sustainability concept into the daily operations of their municipalities and communities.

A few of the identified challenges to integrating economic development and sustainability included:

  • Aligning stakeholders in order to obtain buy-in, while ensuring varied regions and attitudes towards sustainability received adequate attention and consideration;
  • Meeting the expectations of all stakeholders; and
  • Selling the concept of sustainability to municipal leadership and the community itself.

Tips from participants on successful integration included:

  • Keep an open mind with regards to sustainability and what it can bring to the community in the future;
  • Look at sustainability from a longer-term perspective and know where you want to go;
  • Ensure all stakeholders have a role to play in the implementation of sustainability;
  • Make sustainability a part of the municipal culture; and
  • Follow through on the implementation of sustainable economic development in the community and its day-to-day operations.
Our next blog on this topic will feature a series of recommendations which arose from this important work.
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Technology Megatrends impacting Economic Development

Enter megatrend into a search engine and you get a lot of hits. Everything from John Naisbitt's original 1988 book, to geopolitics, to new age tenets, can be found. When you further restrict the search to technology, it seems that a significant percentage of this planet's consulting companies have insight into the next big thing(s). From my perspective, after being a practicing information technology professional for 20 years and then moving to academia, I see four trends shaping the information technology space over the next decade. Maybe they will be megatrends, or maybe something new will overshadow them all, but are all going to be important:

  • mobile devices
  • social media
  • cloud computing
  • and data analytics

Mobile devices will drive decisions anywhere, anytime, and all the time.

Social media will give consumers the power to change your products and services, or kill them.

Cloud computing will provide sufficient capacity, cheaply enough for individuals, small business, and big corporations to do things they cannot currently imagine.

Lastly, data analytics, along with big data, will enable knowing what you cannot currently know.

These trends represent major features that will force us to re-think information technology, but ultimately they may have a bigger impact on how we think about our public and private organizations. I am sure that you have already felt some of the impacts of these megatrends in your day to day economic development work. We will talk about each trend and some possibilities of what they might mean to economic development in future posts.


 

Richard Woolridge

Currently an Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Previously, twenty years in industry as an entrepreneur, consultant, process developer, project leader, information architect, teacher, developer, and innovator.

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The 6 Steps of Municipal Cultural Planning

In this blog, we continue our exploration of Cultural Planning and the economic benefits that it brings to local government.

There are six steps in doing a Cultural Plan. Your associate at McSweeney can explain these in detail, but the steps are:

  1. First, get your Council and your community together and approve the concept of cultural planning (and ideally a suitable budget).
  2. Set up a Steering Group - an experienced consultant to help guide the process.
  3. Do your research. Gather the data. You may want to also do a Cultural Mapping project.
  4. Engage the community. I can't emphasize enough how vital this is. Reach out to the community, listen to them, get fresh ideas, and make it an opportunity to really explore a new vision with the community.
  5. Do the report and make specific recommendations, including an Action Plan. Don't let the report gather dust on a shelf. Get your local government approval.
  6. And finally, work out an implementation plan and budget, and then DO IT!

Cultural Planning is about shaping, developing and enhancing the economic future of your municipality. It is about identifying and harnessing your cultural assets. It is about place and place-making. It is about strengthening the arts and artisans. It is about how heritage preservation can be an economic driver for you. Then you need to link those to your community's strategic and economic objectives.

That's why a careful strategy and identification of community objectives and needs are an important part of a municipal cultural plan. An experienced consultant can provide the process to do that.


 

GORD HUME. Author of "Taking Back Our Cities" and other books. http://www.gordhume.com/ or email gord@gordhume.com

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Telling Your Municipality's Story

As part of your economic development marketing plan, here are five key steps to keep in mind when preparing to tell your municipality's story.

Do the research - Building on the work of your economic development strategy, further research can be undertaken to determine gaps in your current marketing efforts, and uncover specific business needs and opportunities.

Have a story to tell - Start with highlighting your unique competitive advantages. What are the community's main strengths? What is the main benefit of your community's location? Is it the multi-skilled people in your labour force? Creativity and innovation in your key sectors? A cost advantage in shipping goods?

Tell it well - Always lead with benefits, of course. But different audiences have different needs, and messages must be developed that will strike a chord with their intended target. Having a strong brand is part of telling it well. It also means supporting the message with well-designed and creative materials, grabbing the attention of the recipient so he or she can see value in reading further.

Tell it often - Marketing studies show that responses increase when an integrated, coordinated, multi-channel approach is taken. Beyond simply purchasing media space or posting social media entries, there needs to be a process for keeping the marketing program on the rails.

Build the relationship - This is the punch line: creating and nurturing those contacts with whom you expect to do business - whether it is a prospect, an industry representative or an influencer.

Keeping these five steps in mind will help you develop a compelling story about your community - and lead to the long-term relationships you're seeking.

 


 

Tom Graham - Principal + Creative Director of TD Graham + Associates Marketing Communications. http://www.tdgraham.com/. Contact tdgraham@tdgraham.com.

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