No matter the year or the decade, success boils down to LEADERSHIP - the ability to partner effectively for positive change. As communities across the globe are experiencing phenomenal game-changing circumstances affecting the economic, social, and environmental conditions we live in, the call for such leadership has never been greater.
Perhaps one of the more prolific game-changers has been the growing dispersion and adoption of information and communications technologies. This great global connector is enabling people and companies to locate just about anywhere in the world. And while communities once competed on cost for becoming a community of choice, today they compete on "quality of place" considerations. However, such considerations are not community-based but regional in nature. Therefore, a community's "globility" - that is, the ability to survive and thrive in the global marketplace - depends upon the ability to think, act, and compete regionally.
In recognition of this, the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario 2011 aims to foster exciting and groundbreaking partnerships among northern community and business leaders as they engage in regional strategic planning for economic development. In support of these endeavors, McSweeney & Associates reviewed 24 examples of regional programs from Canada as well as Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. A review of these examples and others reveals a myriad of value propositions for undertaking a regional approach to economic development, including but not limited to:
- Fosters a unified regional voice, identity, and brand.
- Enables communities to play in a world economy where regions (not individual communities) compete effectively.
- Strengthens existing industry competitiveness through access to other industry members and regional resources.
- Facilitates high-performance regions based on leveraging the collective regional strengths and assets where local communities share in the regional wealth and prosperity.
- Creates a sustainable partnership framework for working together and acting strategically.
- Enables communities to build their relationship capital with people beyond their borders - critical for surviving in a world where such relationships are only growing in importance.
- Develops a "neutral ground" for sharing knowledge and making joint decisions to address regional and local matters.
- Infuses local decision making with timely, relevant, and intelligence-based information affecting the region.
- Provides additive (as opposed to subtractive) value as it does not require local communities to give up their individuality, identity, or plans.
- Empowers communities to "do more with less" and to undertake previously impossible efforts, or those they could not do on their own.
- Fosters more efficient allocation of efforts, programs, deployment of resources, etc. and less duplication and associated unnecessary costs.
- Creates a stronger "sense of community" among people throughout the region - which fosters "staying power" among residents and businesses and is attractive to future investors.
Every community - no matter the size - has the potential to grow new firms, support existing industries, and attract new investment dollars. However, the fundamental truth is that their ability to be competitive for economic activities depends upon the partnerships and relationships they build regionally.
Joy Wilkins is a frequent advisor, speaker, instructor, and author on economic development, strategic planning, and quality management topics. Currently, she is serving as a Senior Fellow with The University of Georgia's Fanning Institute when she contributes to the organization's efforts in leadership development and community capacity building. Previously, she served as Group Manager for Community Innovation Services at Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute. A Certified Economic Developer, Joy serves as a member of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Board of Directors and has served in the economic development profession since 1994.
Joy is collaborator and contributor to various McSweeney & Associates projects, and recently provided a significant contribution to a report prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry on best practices in regional economic strategic planning.