All posts by Darren Shock

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

Budgeting for Downtown Revitalization?

Continuing with our series of blogs on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA) Downtown Revitalization Program (DR), this entry will take a look at the estimated costs a community could expect to incur, and strategies to manage the cost of the initiative.

Like all economic development activities, downtown revitalization is a long-term and ongoing process. OMAFRA’s DR program is a comprehensive four-stage process aimed at moving from foundational strategic directions and actions to tangible results in a two to three year timeframe. The first year is largely focused on the development of a strategic plan and actions for downtown revitalization. An additional one to two years is a realistic expectation for the community to see initial outcomes, monitor progress, and start making strategic adjustments as needed. This process is expected to generate two types of costs: Continue reading Budgeting for Downtown Revitalization?

Refresher for Downtown Revitalization

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Downtown Revitalization Program takes a comprehensive four-stage approach to support the efforts of rural communities who want to revitalize their historic downtowns. As part of the program, OMAFRA provides the Downtown Revitalization Coordinator’s Manual, which is designed to support communities that have identified downtown revitalization as an economic development priority. As with many of OMAFRA’s other program resources, the Downtown Revitalization Coordinator’s Manual is now available online, at no cost,  just fill out the form on the OMAFRA website. Continue reading Refresher for Downtown Revitalization

Thoughts from the Main Street Now Conference

Place seems to matter more than ever, and Main Street areas across the United States are finding ways to re-assert their economic importance despite emerging ‘disruptive’ advancements in retail (e.g. e-commerce). That was the underlying theme in many of the sessions I attended at the recent 2017 Main Street Now conference in Pittsburgh, pit 22Pennsylvania. Attended by more than 1,600 people, the annual conference brings together key private and public sector decision makers to share successes and challenges in preservation-based downtown revitalization.

After a few weeks to collect my thoughts, here are the ideas that continue to resonate with me on ways to improve downtown districts: Continue reading Thoughts from the Main Street Now Conference

The Community-Focused 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 March 31, 2017. A second intake is scheduled for July 31, 2017 to September 29, 2017.

The RED program supports the government’s plan to create jobs, grow the economy, and help people in their everyday lives by:

  • Helping remove barriers to economic development for rural communities, Indigenous communities and organizations, and not-for-profit organizations.
  • Helping rural communities identify their economic strengths and develop strategies to attract business and investment which will help to retain and create jobs.
  • Helping rural communities and partners to be in a more competitive economic position so that they can diversify and grow their local economies – making economic growth more inclusive so that Ontario’s growing economy delivers real benefits to rural Ontario.

Applicants are required to read the program guidelines before completing the application.

For more information on the program, including guidelines, applications, and approved projects, please visit Ontario.ca/REDprogram.

Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice Sessions

For the second year in a row, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has partnered with the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) to organize and deliver three Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice sessions. These sessions are being hosted in communities that are at various stages in their downtown revitalization program. The sessions are designed to provide a balance of perspectives about the challenges and opportunities associated with launching a Downtown Revitalization initiative, developing strategies to respond to changing markets, and maintaining support over the longer term.

These one-day sessions showcase the community, and the individuals or organizations involved in the revitalization of the downtown. This includes presentations by the host community and partner organizations, facilitated discussions on downtown revitalization best practices, and networking opportunities. Community of Practice sessions are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

More information and registration details can be found on the OBIAA website. OMAFRA facilitates and coordinates resources and tools to build the capacity of rural Ontario communities for economic development. For more information on OMAFRA’s Downtown Revitalization program, visit our website or contact the Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor in your area.