In 2020, Teeny Tiny Summits will be moving to a virtual format featuring a series of three webinars. The virtual Teeny Tiny webinars will shine a light on creative ideas and people in small communities that have made the most of the past few months. The webinar series will be sharing ideas and actions from community leaders in small communities of all kinds for informative and inspiring sessions.
Just as the activities of business and government are shifting to meet the demands of the current context, the BR+E process should also adapt to meet today’s economic development needs. To tackle the implications of this outbreak, communities and organizations will benefit from having access to and sharing timely, reliable, and meaningful data. This data can allow stakeholders and the business community to share critical information that can help address individual, regional and sector-based issues.
This post will review four keys ways in which your BR+E practices could pivot to address today’s economy.
The Rural Ontario Institute has created a Rural Rebound sharing platform that showcases encouraging stories and positive examples drawn from across rural Ontario. This online platform offers case studies about creative solutions from community and non profit organizations, businesses, and entrepreneurs. These stories share a common theme of effective leadership and collaboration. The platform is also a source of reliable up-to-date information on local and regional government efforts, funding and grant opportunities, research findings, webinar links and more.
Below are a few great case studies shared on the platform:
A strong Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) program can help communities understand and address prospects and issues facing their business community. Amidst a global COVID-19 outbreak that has significantly impacted local economies, it is crucial, now more than ever, to consider BR+E as a means to:
- assess the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak to the local economy
- identify current and potential opportunities and challenges that lie ahead
BR+Es work by using survey questions to conduct live interviews with the business community. Once the data has been collected it is used to formulate actions to support the business community. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA’s) BR+E program helps communities develop situation specific surveys which ask meaningful questions that in turn provide the data needed to plan for economic recovery and future resiliency.
This post will examine the importance of undertaking BR+E in the current context.
Why is BR+E important now?
As Ontario transitions through the Framework for Reopening Our Province, downtowns and main street areas are required to operate in different ways than they have in the past. On June 1, 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs facilitated an online Community of Practice event to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with the reopening of downtowns. Speakers Stephannie Schlichter, Director of Economic and Creative Development of the City of Barrie, Noella Rinaldo, Executive Director of the Downtown Timmins Business Improvement Area, and Kay Matthews, Executive Director of the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA), provided their input on some of the methods and techniques that their municipalities have introduced to support the reopening of downtowns.
A few key ways were identified as quick, high-impact tasks that municipalities can implement in downtowns to attract residents and boost their economic recovery:
In the past couple months, Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) has hosted a 2-part webinar series discussing emergency economic task forces. The series covered key economic challenges and successes from both rural and urban perspectives. Fellow EDCO members Craig Kelley – Director of Property and Development with the County of Renfrew, Rebecca Mustard – Manager of Economic Development with the City of Kawartha Lakes, and Martin Bohl – Sector Manager with the City of Brampton shared insights on their local efforts to support their community in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Structuring an emergency economic task force was discussed as a means to support local businesses and guide the community back toward a thriving economy.
Why are economic task forces beneficial?
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recognizes the unique workforce challenges and opportunities agri-sector employers are faced with. Through Canadian Agricultural Partnership funding, OFA is rapidly developing a support system for agriculture and food employers from field to fork, to feed Ontario’s future. This project will help employers seek qualified candidates for planting, harvesting, processing, marketing, researching, and selling Ontario’s healthy, high-quality food, beverage and agri-products.
Enhancing agri-food workforce readiness along the value chain will help strengthen the Ontario agri-food sector during COVID-19 and beyond. This project will address agri-food labour supply and training challenges through the inclusion of:
Through our series of Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice events, we are continuing to build a network of practitioners with an interest in economic development and downtown revitalization across the province. Given the challenges that have emerged over the last several months across the globe related to COVID-19, particularly for small businesses in downtowns and main street areas, building those networks and sharing leading practices has taken on an even more important role. As part of that work, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is pleased to facilitate the next session in its downtown community of practice event series, to be held on June 1st, 2020, from 10:30-12:00.
Guest blog written by Emily Potter, Executive Director, NOFIA
With the current COVID-19 situation changing daily, challenges that farmers were facing prior to the outbreak have escalated, and new challenges are being presented week by week. While the general public are expressing concerns about the food supply, farmers want the public to know that they will not stop producing safe and healthy food for them to consume. Despite mounting challenges, Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food industry is resilient and innovative.
Industry organizations everywhere have been working hard to provide up-to-date information and create tools to ensure farmers and producers can continue to meet the country’s demand. Whether this be releasing practical tools and information, developing support programs, or working with the government to ensure the supply chain is maintained.
The Agriculture Economic Development and Planning Community of Practice held a webinar on April 15, 2020, to discuss issues in the agriculture and food sector due to COVID-19 and how to help communities during these difficult times.
One concern expressed is the lack of agriculture labourers. The agricultural community is worried that they will not get their full complement of temporary seasonal workers, and that would impact their ability to plant and harvest this season. The goal of the Community of Practice it to help find local and regional solutions to address these types of issues.