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.