By Jenn Watt
Economic development is no longer solely about attracting outside investment economic development specialist Brock Dickinson says; it’s more about fostering growth using what you have already.
Dickinson is CEO of MDB Insight an economic development consultancy and he has a long and prestigious CV that includes years spent working for the United Nations.
On Tuesday March 8 he will be speaking in Haliburton as part of the Workforce Development Board’s Local Employment Planning Council launch at Pinestone Resort.
“Part of what we’ll look at in the presentation is how the notion of what economic development is and what it’s supposed to do has changed over time” says Dickinson. “Go back a couple of generations and it was all about ‘smokestack chasing’ – this notion that I can go around the world and lure some big factory to my community and create a thousand jobs and that’s going to solve all my problems.”
It’s much more likely that a region would benefit from investment in current businesses and using the local labour pool to create jobs.
“Investment attraction is great and if it can work in a community it can add wealth. It can add jobs” he says. “But it’s much more likely that our activities are going to be successful if we’re focused on things like supporting local entrepreneurs or working with existing businesses in the community to help them grow and expand over time.”
Dickinson spent some of his career in Nova Scotia as executive director of Western Valley Development Authority. He grew up in that province and says after working for the United Nations he wanted to apply the big picture ideas at the community level.
He says in rural areas it’s important to invest in training and “re-skilling” workers and that in the knowledge economy we must concentrate on promoting the workers in the community.
“As we move into this knowledge economy we find that things like taxes and tax rates or the cost of real estate are not the real drivers of economic development. In the knowledge economy it’s knowledge itself that becomes important.”
The Workforce Development Board has been working to put together a strategic plan for the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities for the pilot project Local Employment Planning Council which WDB chief executive officer Joe Celestini says will function like a hub.
“Basically what we’re doing is bringing together all of the key players that touch on the labour market including economic development” Celestini said.
The WDB covers City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland Peterborough and Haliburton counties.
They have already created a central planning group which is giving input on what the region needs supported by three working groups. Together they are creating a plan that will be sent to the province. They are expecting approval by March 31 and from there can move ahead with funding projects to improve conditions for employment.
“Really what this is all about is to get us as close as we possibly can that people who want a job will have an opportunity to get one” he said.
“What is mandated to do in the pilot is fund meaningful projects that will support priorities from the strategic plan.”
The March 8 meeting is to introduce the concept to the community and allow input.
The event is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Pinestone near Haliburton on Tuesday March 8.
There is no charge to attend the event and a continental breakfast is included.