All posts by Darren Shock

Want to Learn About Downtown Revitalization? Training on Nov 6 & 7 in Lindsay

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Downtown Revitalization Program is a comprehensive four stage approach to support economic development efforts of rural communities. As part of that program, OMAFRA provides intensive downtown revitalization coordinator training focused on identifying the processes and tools that are needed to successfully undertake a downtown revitalization initiative in a community.

An upcoming training session will be offered at Celebrations in Lindsay, Ontario on November 6-7. The training event can accommodate a limited number of participants, and will be open to individuals from: Continue reading Want to Learn About Downtown Revitalization? Training on Nov 6 & 7 in Lindsay

Planning your Work and Getting some Quick Wins

In this next entry in our series of blogs on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Downtown Revitalization Program, we take a look at preparing your preliminary work plan, and the importance of “quick wins” to the initiative.

Before starting to collect and analyze data, you need an overall work plan to guide the Management Committee and Coordinator over the duration of the initiative. The team should have a strong grasp of the entire strategic process when developing the work plan, to ensure the scheduling of tasks considers:

  • The potential to use data collected in one activity (e.g. business and resident surveys) to inform subsequent activities (e.g. community design workshop)
  • The availability of resources and volunteers to carry out the tasks when required, including the level of effort and time required from the coordinator
  • The municipal budget planning process, and the need to submit short and long term projects for municipal council approval in the preceding budget year

Your Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor can assist you with scheduling major activities, and provide templates to assist with the development of a comprehensive work plan.

Developing your work plan also offers a chance to tackle one of the key challenges you may face – keeping the team and community engaged and energized in the initiative, particularly through the less visible activities like data collection and analysis. The work planning stage is a great time to identify and plan for some highly-visible, high-impact activities that will help to promote and generate ongoing support for downtown revitalization.

Continue reading Planning your Work and Getting some Quick Wins

Tips for Completing your Rural Economic Development (RED) Program Application

The Rural Economic Development (RED) program supports projects that stimulate economic growth in Ontario’s rural communities. RED supports activities that create jobs and help open doors to local economic development. The program helps communities:

  • identify their economic strengths
  • be more competitive
  • diversify and grow their local economies.

The program is open and will accept applications until September 28, 2018

Applicants are required to read the program guidelines before completing an application form. The program guidelines provide detailed information on eligible applicants, project types, and costs, as well as the process for submitting an application and the process that will be used to assess the application. Continue reading Tips for Completing your Rural Economic Development (RED) Program Application

Building a Team for Downtown Revitalization

Continuing with our series of blogs on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Downtown Revitalization Program, this entry will take a look at building your downtown revitalization team.

The motivation, energy, and commitment required for successful revitalization should come primarily from the community. Those from outside of the community may provide interesting insights, but revitalization only works when members of the community, local government, and local businesses commit to ensuring the long-term success of revitalizing their downtown.

building a team chartA revitalized downtown has the potential to benefit the entire community, so the lead organization may identify potential partners from across the community, and not just within the downtown area. Organizations like Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), Chambers of Commerce, service clubs, and non-profit organizations can be key resources to engage and align with. The organizations and individuals to engage will depend on the specific characteristics of the community. Continue reading Building a Team for Downtown Revitalization

Recap: Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice

The second online Community of Practice for Ontario’s downtown revitalization community was held in late March. The participants learned about a range of ways in which physical improvements made to downtown areas have contributed to business success.

Here’s a quick summary:

Click here to download the introductory presentation. Continue reading Recap: Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice

Best Practices for Downtown Revitalization

Building on the online model developed by the Agriculture Economic Development and Planning Community of Practice (AED COP), the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is launching an online community of practice for Downtown Revitalization in Ontario.

What is a Community of Practice? It is an informally structured group that allows practitioners with an interest in economic development or downtown development to promote leading practices, share success stories, and Continue reading Best Practices for Downtown Revitalization

Strategic Planning is a Great way to Keep your Organization on Track.

Strategic planning should be embedded into the regular operation of any organization. It helps organizations make sound decisions to guide its activities over time.

OMAFRA has partnered with the Ontario Business Improvement Areas Association (OBIAA) to deliver a free program to build organizational capacity using the Strategic Planning Train-the-Trainer (TTT) program. The program engages and trains a core team of volunteers from within the BIA to strengthen their leadership skills and build a network of support and collaboration that will assist them in creating a strategic plan for their organization.

To participate, BIAs must:

  • Be willing to participate in the strategic planning process
  • Have a commitment from the Board to the process
  • Not be in a crisis situation
  • Have five volunteers (the Core Team) that will commit to be trained to facilitate strategic planning

The program includes five hands-on sessions delivered via webinar, running on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 pm starting November 28, 2017 until March 2018. Volunteers will learn about each stage of OMAFRA’s strategic planning framework, and how it provides a foundation for the next stage. As homework, Core Team members will facilitate that stage of the strategic planning process with their own organization. If you missed the Lunch and Learn on October 24, the slide deck below provides an overview of the program:

Continue reading Strategic Planning is a Great way to Keep your Organization on Track.

Lessons Learned from the Annual International Downtown Association

Themed “AuthentiCITY” the International Downtown Association (IDA) recently held its 63rd annual Conference and Trade Show in Winnipeg. The conference focused on examining the role of place management organizations in shaping prosperous downtown and commercial districts. After taking a few weeks to collect my thoughts, here are some of the key topics I continue to think about.

The uncertain future of retail: The popular media narrative of e-commerce growth signalling the end of physical “bricks and mortar” retail is easy to believe. However, sessions and speakers at the conference highlighted the nuances missing in that narrative – trends like the strong growth of e-retail but still limited overall share of Continue reading Lessons Learned from the Annual International Downtown Association

Understanding the Benefits of a Downtown Revitalization Program

Continuing with our series of blogs on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Downtown Revitalization Program, this entry will take a look at the potential benefits and impacts of a revitalization program.

Downtown Revitalization (DR) can be costly and time-consuming, with positive impacts emerging only over the longer-term. As the figure from the DR Coordinator’s Manual shows, economic impacts are not expected until the medium-term in a downtown revitalization program, with new market trends (e.g. e-commerce) necessitating a long-term commitment to ensure sustainability. Though time frames remain a key challenge, downtown revitalization programs also contend with the perception that their benefits are “local” to the downtown area, rather than the broader community.dr blog Continue reading Understanding the Benefits of a Downtown Revitalization Program

Intake 2 of the Rural Economic Development Program is Open for Applications

The Rural Economic Development (RED) program helps rural communities remove barriers to community economic development, through support for planning and implementation projects that benefit rural Ontario.

The program is now open and will accept applications until September 29, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. (Eastern).

As part of continuous improvement, several minor changes have been made to the RED program guidelines and application since the closure of the first intake: Continue reading Intake 2 of the Rural Economic Development Program is Open for Applications