Economic Developers: Change Agents Building Canadian Communities

5 Takeaways from EDAC 2016

This year’s  Economic Development Association of Canada’s annual conference, hosted a full slate of speakers that inspired economic development professionals from across
Canada. Speakers Bruce Kirkby, Nicole Verkindt, Darcy Lang and Terry O’Reilly, spoke of the ability and impact economic development professionals have to be change agents within their communities, through both traditional and non-traditional avenues.

The following are my top 5 takeaways:

1. “Mr. Burns taught me everything I need to know about business” – so said Nicole Verkindt, founder of OMX and Host of CBC’s “Dragon’s Den – Next Gen.”

Funny anecdnicole-verkindtotes aside, she shared some great advice on where government has a role to play in the innovation sandbox. We are in a period of a “data gold rush” where data is democratizing all things and opening up the ability to collect and analyze many things.  Government has the opportunity to break from its stereotypical risk-averse role to being a player that can absorb risk by a first adopter for the overall betterment of its citizens.

2. “Dark Fibre” – the City of Kelowna identified how it used its own infrastructure to open up new revenue streams for the City and be an overall economic development driver. Dark fibre is the term Kelowna used when they buried high-speed fibre under their roads every time they invested in repaving.  By thinking outside the box and considering internet as a municipal service akin to water and sewer, it was able to invest in its fibre-optic network and provide it as a subscription service to users in its core areas.  This resulted in a significant cost savings (approximately $98,000 annually) and was a key driver in attracting Bardel Entertainment Studio to the municipality.

3. Millennials are influencing the business of economic development – Karina LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Pond-Deshpande Centre identified that Millennials are moving from being job seekers to opportunity creators; this was evident throughout the conference. Whether it was Ryley Iverson & Davie Lee, cofounders of a tool to promote digital investment attraction (townfolio.com) to Alison Anderson, CEO of successionmatching.com which assists buyers and sellers of businesses and ultimately helps to keep businesses in communities, millennials are making innovative new ways to engage in economic development.We’re all in this together – meeting with a wide group of economic developers, many which work in rural communities, the challenges we face in Ontario are not unique. All communities are interested in how they can best educate their elected officials and senior leadership teams on the advantage having economic development professionals as key influencers in government.

4. We’re all in this together – meeting with a wide group of economic developers, many which work in rural communities, the challenges we face in Ontario are not unique. All communities are interested in how they can best educate their elected officials and senior leadership teams on the advantage having economic development professionals as key influencers in government.

5. National recognition – I had the opportunity to be recognized by my peers and be

myles-buck-edac
Myles Buck receiving his Economic Development certification

presented with my Economic Development certification. As the only national certification in economic development in Canada, this certification is recognized and supported by clients in Rural Ontario.  When working with REDB, you can be certain that those that serve you have some of the highest qualifications in economic development. I hope these takeaways help you consider innovative solutions to traditional challenges your communities are facing.  Be the change agent in your community!

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