I had the opportunity to attend the 60th annual Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) conference that took place in February. Delegates from across Ontario included economic development officers, municipal elected officials, staff from several Ontario ministries, and industry leaders representing manufacturing, business, planning, IT, and tourism.
The theme this year was Driven by Innovation. The following are my top three takeaways from the EDCO conference.
- Innovation is disruptive – The opening keynote, Terry Stuart, Chief Innovation Officer at Deloitte, spoke about how disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles, are going to reshape how simple tasks are done today, and it is important for business leaders to be open to ideas that are ‘outside-the-box’.
- Innovation can be small scale – There were several examples of how small communities took part in economic development activities that were smaller in scale. Some success stories of small scale innovation that were shared during the conference including:
- The Aquatarium at Tall Ships Landing, a new tourist attraction in Brockville
- The redevelopment and expansion of the Big Apple in Colbourne, and
- Working with tourism businesses to develop the South Coast Shuttle in Norfolk County
- Using data for innovation – Rahaf Harfoush, New York Times bestselling co-author of ‘The Decoded Company,’ and part of Barack Obama’s media team, spoke about how economic developers can harness the power of big data to make decisions. Our own team presented OMAFRA’s new Analyst Input-Output Model tool and how it helps rural communities understand the local economic impact.
The key message at the EDCO conference was that innovation is possible, regardless of the resources and expertise available. What’s most important for communities is to be open to new ideas. Understanding that innovation can be out-of-the-box, small-scale, and sparked by utilizing data to generate ideas.
Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor – covering Norfolk and Haldimand
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