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.
A lot of municipalities are talking about resiliency and diversification right now, but what defines resilience and how does a community achieve it?
Essentially, resilience is measured by a community’s ability to recover from a downturn or shock. That shock could be economic such as: a general downturn in the economy; closure of a major employer; or macro-economic transition to a non-traditional economic base (e.g. assembly plants to knowledge-based advanced manufacturing).
Shock could equally be a shock delivered by Mother Nature such as Southern Alberta’s 2013 floods; The Beast that hit Fort Mac last year; or Goderich, Ontario’s 2011 tornado. All can be devastating for local businesses, residents and the local Council.
The bottom-line is: How quickly can you recover? The ability to react quickly is closely related to
- The historic flexibility of a community
- Preparedness: how well Council and staff have anticipated and planned their social, economic and physical infrastructure for risk events.
In today’s economy, the communities that survive and thrive have:
- An attractive, desirable environment with quality infrastructure, services and amenities for families, newcomers and visitors;
- A diversified economy that doesn’t rely on one sector and is resistant to economic shocks;
- A business-friendly Council and administration that is proactive in helping existing and new businesses thrive;
- A workforce with the skills required by employers, and a willingness to learn and be trained;
- An engaged Chamber of Commerce and other business groups;
- A up to date asset database that recognizes physical, economic, and social strengths;
- Attraction(s) and a unique selling proposition (USP) for each specific target audience: residents, visitors and investors;
- Current, practiced, and understood emergency planning, and most importantly:
- A strategic plan of how to make that happen!
Follow future blogs on: Planning for Resiliency; Community Case Study in Resiliency
Shawna Lawson (Stonehouse) BComm (UofA), MSc (Planning), EcD is a McSweeney Economic Development Associate Consultant, responding to the particular needs smaller municipalities that require economic and community development services. Shawna has worked with communities in Ontario, Alberta, the U.K. and Asia towards economic sustainability.
Guest post from Mentor Works:
|Chris Casemore, Director of Client Management and Development
LinkedIn: Chris Casemore
Ontario Government Grants for Agri-Food Processors Offer up to $350K in Funding Over 5 Years
The agriculture and food processing sectors are among the most heavily funded in Canada as regular recipients of 10’s of billions in funding annually. Through 2014, the sector's prominence in the government funding arena will continue with several popular and accessible programs being offered on both the provincial and federal levels of government. Of the funding programs available to food processors, "Ontario’s Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding for project implementation and capacity building” stand out as two of the most popular and accessible.
Growing Forward 2 Ontario: Capacity Building
Capacity building projects are eligible for funding of up to 50% of project costs, with a cap of $350,000 over 5 years. Applications are being accepted on an ongoing basis with projects being required to fit into the 6 focus areas of Growing Forward 2. Eligible projects include strategic planning, audits or assessments, and training or skills development.
Growing Forward 2 Ontario: Project Implementation
The Project Implementation stream of funding from the Growing
Forward 2 program is focused on helping Ontario-based Processors, who have
completed Capacity Building activities, address and resolve a risk or issue
that was discovered in that process.
Additional Government Business Grants Programs Available to Food Processors in Ontario.
Eligible implementation projects will receive up to 35% in projects costs; up to 50% of project costs for Innovative projects to a maximum of $350,000 over the 5-year term of the funding, including Capacity Building and Project Implementation related activities. In order to qualify for GF2 funding for project implementation projects firms are encouraged to complete a Capacity Building project(s) and want to resolve an issue discovered in that process, which fits with one of the focus areas of the Growing Forward 2 program. In take periods for this year are from May 6, 2014 to August 28, 2014 and September 2, 2014 to December 11, 2014 and eligible costs can be backdated until April 1, 2014.
Additional Government Business Grants Programs Available to Food Processors in Ontario
Also of interest to food processors in Ontario is the $10M per year Local Food Fund, a program that offers support to innovative projects that result in the improved access to, demand for, and awareness of local food in Ontario. And on the national level Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has created the AgriMarketing Program to enhance the marketing capacity and competitiveness of the Canadian agriculture, agri-food, fish and seafood sectors.
Subscribe to Mentor Works Weekly E-newsletter in order to stay up to date on government funding available to help your business overcome financial obstacles to growth or register for an upcoming government funding workshop to learn more about grants and loans available to your business. Mentor Works provides comprehensive funding strategies, from discovering ideal funding opportunities to applicant support services. Feel free to contact Mentor Works directly to learn more.
|Jordan Duff, Economic Development Consultant
LinkedIn: Jordan Duff
Below, Jordan shares the details on McSweeney & Associates' newest social media efforts to better serve our clientele.
As part of McSweeney & Associates’ efforts to better serve our past and future clients, we will begin sharing some public and private funding/incentive programs that some communities and economic development offices may be eligible for. Every Friday (starting this July 11) we will tweet out a funding program we think our clients might be interested in; giving new meaning to TGIF. We’ll organize these under the hashtag #FundingFriday to help you filter the incentives from other tweets and because alliteration is fun.
Give us a follow @McSweeneyEcDev and watch our Twitter feed on Fridays for links to helpful funding programs. Feel free to share or retweet any useful programs with others. Let us know if you have useful funding programs you wish to share with other communities. We’ll have other interesting news stories and updates from the world of economic development that we will share through this feed as well.
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.