2020 has been an incredibly unique and unforgettable year, it’s also been a great year for the ON Regional Economic Development blog website. We’ve expanded our range of topics and have enjoyed watching our follow numbers grow. Below is a recap of our most popular blogs for 2020.
Impacts of COVID-19 on local communities has left economic developers seeking guidance on how to best respond to the outbreak and offer effective support measures. This blog post discusses a ten-point action plan for how economic developer organizations can work through a three-phase recovery.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) announced the launch of the Digital Main Street Grant Program.
The Digital Main Street Grants Program provides funding to qualifying small “main street” businesses and community business groups to enhance their online promotion, selling and operations. It will help businesses adapt to the digital economy with new technologies from e-commerce to social media platforms. Digital Main Street not only aims to strengthen rural communities but also help local small businesses embrace new technologies that will expand their digital capabilities and increase their competitiveness.
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.
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.
Vibrant main streets help attract visitors, create jobs and increase the competitiveness of small businesses, which are the backbone of small, rural communities. At this year’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) announced the Main Street Revitalization Initiative, a new initiative that will be administered by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and its rural arm, ROMA, to support the revitalization of downtown and main streets across Ontario.
The province is investing up to $26 million in the initiative, which is part of a larger $40 million investment in the Main Street Enhancement Initiative focused on strengthening communities’ planning and implementation activities in downtown and main street areas, as well as providing business support for capital improvements, enhanced digital capabilities and improvements to energy efficiencies. Continue reading New Main Street Revitalization Initiative→
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.
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:
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→
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. Continue reading Understanding the Benefits of a Downtown Revitalization Program→
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?→
Regional Economic Development blog focusing on agriculture and rural economic development for Ontario