Examining economic development 0
As the economic development officer for Prince Edward County, Dan Taylor continues to see the potential for financial prosperity lying across the hills of the area. Central to this vision is the belief that by making local communities attractive places to reside within, the people will come looking for the lifestyle to ground their creative direction in occupation.
He presented these concepts to a crowd of 85 area people on Dec. 1 at the Bancroft Fish and Game Club, with the hope of providing some knowledgeable direction for the economic development of the region of North Hastings. An area that he feels can really capitalize on the growing creative economy within Eastern Ontario that studies show is not only profitable for an area to capitalize on but also provides some stability in the workforce.
Nine years ago, Taylor said that he took on the task of breathing new life into the economic development of Prince Edward County. Working along side the likes of Andrew Redden, Economic Development Officer for Hastings County, he embarked on reviewing a new direction for bringing stability into the area via the creative economy.
Based on the popular research by University of Toronto professor Richard Florida, the creative economy is compiled of people driven by generating ideas through innovative outlets, stemming from a business structure surrounding knowledge, strategic thought, creativity and collaboration with their surroundings. Something Taylor felt was essential for the growth of an area's economy.
"It was stressing to the businesses that other businesses in their area are not competitors, the mindset needs to be more cooperative," said Taylor. "It is about working with your fellow business people and community so all can grow effectively and develop a creative economy."
Though many in Prince Edward County saw these concepts and ideas as potentially ineffective due to the lack of industry attracted through these methods in order to focus what was considered a more bohemian class of workforce, he stressed that it is applicable to do so in Eastern Ontario.
"There is high growth rate currently being seen within the creative sector, with high payrolls coming with those jobs, here is a real opportunity for the area to capitalize on," explained Taylor. "And it is as possible to do this in North Hastings as it is in the Greater Toronto Area."
With research proving this statement, Taylor told that crowd that the time is now to take on the chance to attract the creative economy with full force.
According to a report on Eastern Ontario entitled "Creative Corridors," the area is positioned on the borders of the current creative economy that is a benefit to capitalize on with many who fall within this classification of work looking for comfortable environments to live and work within.
Studies show that the creative economy along the Greater Toronto Area, moving south into the United States, sits at around $530 billion in annual revenue. The average salary for one of these creative workers at around $58,500 with a low unemployment rate and a growth rate that makes it one of the province's most powerful and stable economies.
An economy that Taylor feels North Hastings is in a powerful position to tap into with hard work and collaboration to develop the lifestyles in the region to those workers.
"North Hastings is on the edge of this economy, not far from the communities that are overrun with this workforce," he explained. "And with the quality of life now the competitive advantage when it comes to bringing people to the area, the opportunity is there to capitalize."
In the early days of economic development, he said that the goal was always chasing the smokestacks. Industry equaled the answer to all economic prosperity within a region. However, Taylor says that with the growth of this intellectually driven workforce and the instability of the corporate economy the future now lies with the creative class.
"The major issue with the industrial workforce is that you are not going to get any commitment to the area and its people, there are major losses if the company decides that the resources are not profitable enough for them," said Taylor. "With this workforce you are attracting people in one's or two's rather than hundreds."
"Rather than dealing with a major exodus, there is an opportunity to develop a lifestyle in the region that has people live and work in the area with creative economic activity."
Taylor continues to see these beliefs come to fruition as the creative economy has provided Prince Edward County with a stable rebirth as an attractive place to visit, work and live within. At the heart of this progress he claims is the focus on collaboration amongst the community and the business patrons of the area to highlight the natural beauty in the area.
When he first came to Prince Edward County, Taylor said that he was blown away with the area's quaint appearance framed within a visually stunning environment. From a marketing perspective, the potential to bring people to the area was there; he said it just needed to be packaged with the assistance of all in the greater community.
One example he told the crowd about involved drawing people to a major draw to the region flowing through the maple trees. Maple syrup was always a major part of Taylor's life growing up in Quebec, and in utilizing that experience to apply it to all local businesses in throughout the county he created Maple in the County. The first year of the event, he said around 2,000 new people came to the area for the first time and discovered the beauty he saw in Prince Edward County.
This led to other food based events that brought people to the area and allowed them to fall in love with the surroundings to the point that a major national publication entitled Prince Edward County "Ontario's New Gastronomic Capital."
None of which he said would not be able to occur without collaboration within the community and businesses.
"It is about getting people to understand that North Hastings is the place to be, work together, pool your resources to collaborate and say we can do some cool things and stay together to make a difference," said Taylor.