- Private owners may effectively hold land off the market by over-pricing it (for various reasons);
- Many private owners do not wish to sell the land at all (again for a variety of reasons);
- Some private owners will only do “build to suit or lease”, profiting on both land and building development. This eliminates businesses requiring ownership of their real property;
- Private owners often acquire industrial land with the intent or hope to re-designate to higher value uses such as commercial or residential;
- Sales of privately-held lands are less discriminate and/or counter to municipal objectives, such as selling to land extensive – low employment uses (think auto wrecker), or retail uses.
In addition to his international and Canadian economic development certifications, Eric McSweeney is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and a Commercial Investment Member (CCIM). He has completed land development related projects for more than two dozen communities, and has developed and sold more than $20M of business park lands. One of his innovative public-private land development projects has been published in the International Economic Development Council Journal.
I’m going to try to dispel the mystery of success to support economic diversification, economic development or whatever else you want to call what it is you do. If you are currently functioning as an economic developer, your role is essentially about first ensuring your community’s act is together – seriously, it’s as simple as that.
No magic, no special hidden secret - just getting back to the basics – and being good at it. Regardless of your program or focus, in this day and age, it’s all about ensuring the economic development fundamentals are met. Unfortunately, a large number of communities (big/small, urban/rural) across Canada have either forgotten, or have never been enlightened on this point.
It’s definitely not sexy, and doesn’t win any economic development awards, but the fundamentals of economic development are sadly being overlooked in favour of a focus on the sizzle – I’m being completely honest when I say this. Ironically, award-winning glossy/flashy marketing pieces are effectively useless if you don’t have the basics, right (no awards for that, only rewards…).
So, the two fundamentals that make all communities unique and special are also what most often holds them back – people and place. That’s pretty obvious you would say, yet surprisingly, very difficult for communities to get right. If a community has no people (or not the right kind of people in its labour force) and nowhere for a business to locate (or not the right places), your diversification efforts, business development efforts, and/or investment attraction efforts are all a waste.
No matter what your community chooses to focus its efforts on, as an economic development professional – take a realistic look in the mirror and see if your community has the people and places to support economic development. If your community does not have these two basic essentials right, you may want to refocus efforts to correct this, otherwise you are wasting both your time and your community’s money.
In my next blog (rant), I will pose some questions to help you self-assess whether or not your community has its act together.
Low oil and gas prices have many communities focusing on diversification as a way of stabilizing their local economy. Some Economic Development Officers see diversification as a radical change, maybe a complete retooling or re-build of what they have.
I recently stumbled across a document outlining the progress of agriculture and food production in the High River – Okotoks area, where I now live. It is evident our forefathers looked for diversification opportunities much like us, as illustrated by the following:
- more than one product/service line
- clients in more than one city/town
- not reliant significantly on a single major client
- operate in more than one sector (oil & gas, construction, manufacturing) more markets served (reduces dependence on a single market)
- more than one production location (not in the same city/town)
Art Lawson B.Sc, M.Sc, Ec.D is a McSweeney Economic Development Associate Consultant. Based in Alberta, Art began his career in business management and applied those foundational skills in community economic development – initially in business diversification. Art moved from diversification to pioneering the development and implementation of a number of economic development tools for communities, including BR+E, Downtown Revitalization and Economic Analysis & Planning. Art has also served as the General Manager of the South Central Ontario Economic Development (SCOR) Corporation (former tobacco region) focused on economic recovery and business diversification. Communities and sectors were assisted with capacity building, foreign investment attraction and the process of establishing the Region as a Foreign Trade Zone.