By Angelica Ingram
Brock Dickinson believes the best way to grow your local economy is to invest in your people and existing businesses.
The consultant was at Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre March 8 for the launch of the Local Employment Planning Council a pilot project being spearheaded by the Workforce Development Board.
Encompassing Haliburton County Peterborough County City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland County the LEPC is an 18-month pilot that has been in the works for many years said WDB chief executive officer Joe Celestini.
Funded by the province the LEPC will include a variety of representatives who will come together to create a working group that will collect local labour market information and create a plan.
Developing our local economies does not work the way it once did said Dickinson who is CEO of MDB Insight a consulting firm that will be overseeing the LEPC.
Going back to the origins of economic development Dickinson said municipalities and cities would try to attract big manufacturing plants and factories thus driving the economy and creating jobs.
While this worked throughout the 1930s and the decades that followed problems began to arise in the 1980s.
Dickinson pointed to examples like Detroit which once had a population of two million people and now has less than 700000.
“We’ve been struggling to figure out where we’re going to get jobs for the next generation” he said.
Dickinson went on to explain that while we once used to focus on factories we need to start focusing on the knowledge economy and work on business retention and expansion.
He said 76 per cent of new jobs come from existing businesses.
“In a knowledge economy we have to realize that things move in a different direction” said Dickinson.
He pointed to tactics such as offering cheap land or tax rates as outdated methods of attracting business as companies such as Microsoft are attracted to areas based on the labour market and skill set that is available.
“Our chief competitive factor is actually knowledge. It’s the skills it’s the talents it’s the capabilities of the people who make up our communities and the workers who make up our local workforce” he said. “If we want to be successful in a knowledge economy we have to understand how that terrain has shifted and how knowledge has become the central point of our competitiveness.”
Dickinson said to get ready for these changes we need to be taking the right steps.
“So we want to attract knowledge we want to retain knowledge that means we want to be welcoming to newcomers. We want to bring talent here from somewhere else. We want to keep our young people who have so much talent we don’t want to lose them to other places” he said.
The LEPC will start its work in April. For more information visit www.wdb.ca.