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Archive for October 2013

Economic Development that’s NOT Stuff and Nonsense

After working at a provincial level and later in local government, I had developed mixed feelings about how much government can do to facilitate investment and economic development. At a provincial level, I had seen positive results stemming from tax incentives and exploration grants, but at a local level, it seemed like the best approach was to remove barriers and then stay out of the way. This was fed in part by the reliance on a single goal to attract a major overseas investor who would build a new enterprise in the community and single-handedly re-energize the corporate tax base.

What I’ve observed in the crafting of the September edition of Exchange is that a lot has changed in the field of economic development, and my past experiences are not representative of today’s approach. Successful communities across the province have recognized the importance of hiring individuals with expertise in economic development and business. The result is a better understanding of what is required to attract new business investors, and what local governments can do to retain existing businesses. As well, it quickly become evident that the idea of one major investor to save the day has slid away to be replaced with a strategic approach that assesses the needs and opportunities of the community, and the steps needed to move forward towards new jobs and more diverse local economies.

In both Every Step Counts and Trust Partnerships, it was refreshing to learn that the idea of partnership is expanding to include neighbouring municipalities, working groups involving multiple levels of government including First Nations, and public-private operations that reflect local values. There is a growing cadre of experts along with convenient tools available through the Province and the BC Economic Development Association to support local governments in their efforts to attract and retain businesses. Plus, resources including funding, expertise and networking are making it possible to take ideas and turn them into success stories. Challenges are being viewed as opportunities to try new approaches in Tension that Transforms, and there is a concerted effort to streamline processes and remove barriers that have limited the scope for innovation.

It’s exciting to hear about how local governments across B.C. have successfully implemented a range of projects that have positioned them for future growth, created new jobs and attracted attention of business investors. Every step towards generating new business opportunities and ensuring business retention is a positive step for local communities and the province as a whole.