Chapter 2 Teaser – Build on Your Strengths

Crowd Sourcing

image credit renjith-krishnan

As part of my crowd sourcing experiment, I’m wondering if this chapter warrants an alternate or more provocative chapter title such as  When R& D = Rob & Duplicate or “What space can we own?”.  What do you think? Do you have a preference or any alternative suggestions? Please read on and let me know your thoughts? Thank-you.

I can’t stress how important it is for an economic development strategy to be based on inherent local community assets. If a community’s economic development foundation is not focused on building on its strengths I believe it is doomed for failure. Conversely, if a community is able to realize what its asset base is and what the market is looking for and is able to marry the two then I believe the potential for a community is unlimited.

R&D = Rob & Duplicate
There is a provocative term that I have learned from the economic development profession, it’s R&D. It’s not the R&D or Research and Development that you might be familiar with, although it is related. R & D stands for Rob and Duplicate. I share this term with a few words of caution. Obviously one needs to be sensitive to direct rip offs and others’ intellectual property and to not directly rob & duplicate. Also of extreme importance is that every community is unique and has  a point of differentiation. For example there is only one Silicon Valley. Many communities have tried to emulate or copy silicon valley by proclaiming to be the next one and all have failed. They have failed because there is only one Silicon Valley. The missing ingredient from the Rob & Duplicate plan from these communities is the notion of adapting and quite frankly being a bit imaginative or creative in their approach. Perhaps the acronym should be “RAD” Rob, Adapt, Duplicate?

I think the R&D lesson to be learned from Silicon Valley is that it is brilliant at being a magnet for the the knowledge and industrial supply chain for the innovative high tech industry. It owns that space and it is nearly impossible for somebody else to own that space. It is my belief that each community to a certain extent can carve out its own space. The question we all have ask ourselves is what space can we own, who can we rob and duplicate from and how do we creatively adapt these finding to fit our community, while still remaining unique?

Agri-tourism
Agriculture and Tourism. These were the clear strengths of Prince Edward County. Geography is another as is Arts, Culture and Heritage. All of these factors provided an incredible quality of life or quality of place backdrop. As it turns out these would become essential competitive advantages for retaining and attracting the Creative Class but more on that later.

In 2001 there was very little shared data on the local economy and lots of coffee shop talk about the state of Prince Edward County’s economy. What I heard was that Tourism and Agriculture were the two biggest economic drivers and they were about even. As it turned out they were not even. An agricultural study done just prior to my arrival indicated that agriculture farm gate receipts were about $56,000,000 per year and I learned a few years later that tourism into the county was about $25,000,000 per year. These numbers are from the 1999.

Regardless of the difference in their value, these were two obvious pillars of the economy at the time. Part of my start up responsibilities included putting a simple plan and budget together which I did. The plan was tied to what I understood to be the basis of the local strengths of the economy. The plan and budget included two other pillars, the third being Arts, Culture and Heritage and the fourth Commerce and Industry. Commerce and Industry was the “and everything else” category as there was no obvious clustering of business beyond the other 3 pillars. There was not an obvious leveragable supply chain, say like in Silicon Valley. This is rather ironic because we typically think of what would be in a commerce and industry pillar as “economic development” however in Prince Edward County,  that was not the case. I later learned about Prince Edward County’s economic ecosystem, which I believe is not a unique attribute of Prince Edward County’s but likely common among local economies.

Building on Strengths

image credit - Stuart Miles

Tourism and Agriculture was clearly the immediate economic development opportunity for The County. This was during the time of broad discussions on added value agriculture and agri-toruism and the very early days of the local food movement. As mentioned the wine industry had early investors and some momentum. As a result the first few initiatives I focused on were agriculture and tourism related, where possible combing the two. The one issue I struggled with and certainly paid a price for was dealing with commodity agriculture. While I think everybody agreed about it’s importance most of it was tied to either global commodity prices and or commodity boards, therefore quite frankly I didn’t know what value I or others could add to this segment. So my focus was on value add,  primarily free market agriculture. I received much criticism or focusing on the new growing ares of agriculture while “ignoring the commodity and board related areas.

My first three initiatives all robbed and duplicated from others and were creatively adapted to our environment. In the following pages I’m going to outline how I stole a page out of my maple syrup loving days as a child growing up in Quebec, how I blended big city and timeless rural ideas to help Prince Edward County become the darling of regional cuisine in Ontario and developed a “how to” publication to answer the unasked and unanswered questions by wine investors that help catapult Prince Edward County’s wine explosion.

This is my chapter 2 teaser, just a sample of how I expect the chapter to unfold. I’m crowd-sourcing feedback. Think of this as a working draft, there will be better formatting and editing when the finished product is complete . If you have any thoughts along the way on how to enhance the story and care to share them with me I would genuinely appreciate that. I’m going to tweet this with a #CreativeEconomy and see what happens. Thanks for your interest.

Brief Background & Bio
As economic development officer, I pioneered the practice of Creative Rural Economy, Economic Development in Prince Edward County, Ontario for a decade starting in 2001. Now as the President and CEO of the Greater Peterborough Economic Development Commission and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster my role has expanded to include both urban and rural creative economy work. I have a keen interest in the economics of urban-rural interdependency. I also speak regularly to groups, organizations and conferences in order to help them grow their economies. I’ve spoken across Canada in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Want to Hear More?
I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise to help others on developing Creative Economies – Rural, Small Town & Big City too. To book me for speaking engagements, facilitation, workshops and more click here or email here.

Permanent link to this article: http://cre8tivedant.com/2012/04/22/chapter-2-teaser-build-on-your-strengths/

Chapter 1 Teaser – Creative Rural Economy

The most exciting accomplishment I’ve achieved in my career to date was to discover the economic potential of Prince Edward County. What I realized early on was that if Prince Edward County was going to be a successful and growing economy it had to be the best Prince Edward County it could be. It needed to build on its strengths and not try to mimic some “other” community that it could not be.  As my economic development journey unfolded I discovered that Prince Edward County was a wonderful, brilliant Creative Rural Economy. The timing for this couldn’t be better because the Industrial Age was in decline and the Creative Class was on the rise. I was so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and to see my economic development career and Prince Edward County’s economic fortunes rise simultaneously.

The Creative Economy is measured by Creative Occupations or the Creative Class, people who are paid to think. My favourite story on the history of the economy is from Eva Klein. Years ago I sat in on a presentation that she gave that was so simple it was brilliant. Basically she said since the dawn of civilization there have been three waves of economic drivers or wealth creation. For the first 10,000 years of civilization most jobs and wealth creation was tied to the Agrarian Age and related agricultural outputs. Over the last 200 years or so The Industrial Age was the dominant economic driver. Today we are in the Creative Age where knowledge, innovation, information and creativity drives today’s wealth creation and job growth.

I think it’s really important to understand if one is going to build an economy one needs to appreciate where the economic forces are and where one’s economy is positioned. I believe this perspective creates opportunities for leverage. In the western hemisphere and beyond the economic forces are no longer being driven by agriculture or industry but rather by the new creative and innovation economy. As mentioned in the previous chapter and to my surprise, in Prince Edward County this was not a well accepted or possibly understood principle, far from it. Conversely, a decade later when I moved to Peterborough to my delight I discovered there is not resistance to this notion but open minds and a healthy level of understanding. Perhaps this  is because it is a community with an industrial history, one that thrived during the peak of the industrial age and one that has suffered with the transition to the creative age.  It is important to note when focusing on the development of a Creative Economy, this does not mean one ignores the previous two drivers, merely one puts them in context and acts accordingly. In many ways the creative economy can help regenerate agriculture and industry.

When I started my career in Economic Development I recognized that the opportunity for Prince Edward County was to develop it’s creative economy. Prince Edward County was still very much an agricultural economy. It also has  some strong tourism assets. Although I was not schooled in the Creative Economy language or theory when I started in early 2001 but I did have four basic contextual factors I was dealing with that informed that direction.

First, the industrial age had by-passed Prince Edward County and was virtually non-existent in the local economy. The industrial age was gearing down in North America and had moved to Asia and Mexico. We had no infrastructure, human or other capital resources to support an industrial  business case, therefore I did not see that direction as an opportunity. In other words Prince Edward County missed out on the 150 plus year run of the golden area of the Industrial Age, it was never in the game, it had missed the boat. Enough people to make a difference thought they still had a shot but that boat had long sailed past the island paradise on The Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario. As George Schriver of WCM Consulting used to say to me, wishful thinking can not change the reality of the day. WCM prepared our 2004 Strategic Plan that helped articulate our Creative Economy direction.

Secondly, Prince Edward County was in many ways still in the Agriculture Age, primarily tied to commodities. While there were added value outputs this was an underdeveloped part of the economy. Everything that I learned in marketing and that I knew about business told me that if agriculture was going to succeed it needed to move beyond commodities and add value. It is interesting to note that Prince Edward County’s three previous waves of prosperity were all tied to value added agriculture and little did we know it’s fourth wave which was coming was not going to be any different albeit with a creative twist.

Clearly we were in the age of the knowledge worker or what I was referring to at the time as a mobile worker, somebody who could work almost anywhere and serve clients globally, especially with the arrival of the Internet. This was a target I believed could work well for Prince Edward County.

Finally and intuitively I understood that Prince Edward County’s embarrassment of under appreciated cultural, heritage and artistic assets were of significant and leverageable economic value. I later learned that this was a big part of our “Quality of Place” and primary competitive advantage to retain and attract the Creative Class and build our Creative Rural Economy.

While I was sorting through these issues and building my focus to bring economic success and prosperity to my new community others were well on their way to articulating and defining the creative economy. As I mentioned earlier, Eva Klein brought some wonderful economic history of the world perspective for me. Clearly Peter Drucker and others had laid some of the groundwork with respect to post industrial work. John Howkins, author of the 2001 publication entitled The Creative Economy echoed the U.K. and European definition of creative economy at the time which was creative industries based. That definition pegs the creative economy at about 5% of the labour force in the western hemisphere.

Richard Florida’s book The Creative Class built on Drucker’s notion of knowledge workers and went much further than John Howkins and defined the Creative Economy as people who are paid to think. This definition makes up about 30-35% of the labour force, far beyond the creative industries 5% . As I started to wrap my head around these primarily urban based ideas I came to the conclusion that the “new economy” was the Creative Economy and the creative economy was Prince Edward County’s opportunity to leap frog the Industrial Age, which had passed it by from the Agricultural Age, to the Creative Age. It occurred to me that these need not be exclusively urban principles and I asked the question to myself why not rural?

I thought we should use a streamlined definition tied to place and geography, thus the terminology Creative Rural Economy was used to define my work and Prince Edward County’s Economy. Simultaneously and subsequently other small town and rural communities were on a similar discovery.

This is my chapter 1 teaser, just a sample of how I expect the chapter to unfold. I’m crowd-sourcing feedback. Think of this as a working draft, there will be better formatting and editing when the finished product is complete . If you have any thoughts along the way on how to enhance the story and care to share them with me I would genuinely appreciate that. I’m going to tweet this with a #CreativeEconomy and see what happens. Thanks for your interest.

Brief Background & Bio
As economic development officer, I pioneered the practice of Creative Rural Economy, Economic Development in Prince Edward County, Ontario for a decade starting in 2001. Now as the President and CEO of the Greater Peterborough Economic Development Commission and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster my role has expanded to include both urban and rural creative economy work. I have a keen interest in the economics of urban-rural interdependency. I also speak regularly to groups, organizations and conferences in order to help them grow their economies. I’ve spoken across Canada in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Want to Hear More?
I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise to help others on developing Creative Economies – Rural, Small Town & Big City too. To book me for speaking engagements, facilitation, workshops and more click here or email here.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://cre8tivedant.com/2012/04/15/chapter-1-teaser-creative-rural-economy/

Introduction – Economic Development is Like a Farmers’ Market

In my previous blog I outlined my first book which I am currently writing and I drafted a bakers dozen worth of chapters. Below is a teaser from my introduction. Since I am crowd-sourcing feedback, yours is welcome. Please feel free to comment on any or all parts of this blog.

“Because I’m going to kick ass! “, was the answer to the closing job interview question about why they should hire me for the Economic Development Officer job. This was not the most politically correct or intelligent answer to give the Prince Edward County Economic Development Officer hiring committee which included the imposing stoic figure cut by the balding grey haired mayor. But it was true and I did (say it and kick ass). Not surprisingly, I didn’t get the job right away, a more comfortable fit grey haired gentleman that the mayor and perhaps the other committee members felt more at ease with was the first choice. For one reason or another he wasn’t hired and I was next in line so I got the job.

Financially and career wise this was not a step up for me, on the contrary it was backwards in more ways than one. I had convinced my reluctant wife to join me on a journey from the big city to move to the countryside with 3 young kids in tow and be part of the early day wine growing pioneers of Prince Edward County. This job was a way for me to leverage my skills to make a living in a hard scrabble rural economy, realize my Pinot Noir dream and be close to our upstart farm to nurture our heartbreak grape vineyard.

When I first started my economic development work in Prince Edward County it met with a mixed welcome. The council was fractious on the cost and undertaking of economic development and certainly not clear on the direction it should take. Eleven years later not much has changed.

My background is in marketing, the root of marketing is market as in farmers’ market where farmers bring their goods for sale to find customers who want to buy what they have grown. The most successful farmers grow what their customers want, if they don’t the customer goes to the next farmer in the market that does and buys from that farmer instead. You can guess who prospers and who does not.

I brought this fundamental shift in thinking to economic development to my newly adopted community. I was not trying to sell some empty building or piece of land to some nameless imaginary investor just because we had it. I conceived what was unique and appealing about Prince Edward County as a place to invest in, then I packaged and articulated the opportunities and went looking for an investor target audience who was interested in and looking for what we had to offer.

I was like the farmer at the market knowing I had to offer not what I wanted to grow and sell but what the customer wanted to buy. That was the basis of my strategy, common sense if you will and an age old formula for success.  To my surprise my entire journey was a fascinating controversy where common sense battled with some vague undefined version of success that some of council and the community was seeking for this off the beaten path place that in some ways time had forgotten. Economic Development you see is extremely political, highly emotional and ironically seldom about business or reality. It’s a contact sport in more ways than one. Yes you need to make business and investor contacts but economic development is like a rough and tumble hockey game with cheap shots, elbows in the corner and the occasional cross check. On occasion the gloves did come off and there was a fight or two along the way.

When I started the job and the upstart department there was little investor interest or economic development activity occurring in Prince Edward County, it was fairly sleepy. I felt like the Maytag repair man waiting for the phone to ring. If that scenario was going to change I realized that I had to create investment and awareness and demand towards Prince Edward County. I had to match what we had to offer with what potential investors were looking for in a a community like ours. When I left a decade later we had to gear down our investment attraction efforts and focus on servicing the significant investment demand to ensure customer service needs were being met. Metaphorically I felt like the guy on the tarmac with the wand waving planes to land on a very busy runway. This may be a slight exaggeration for effect but the shift from no investor interest to significant and on going incoming investment was that dramatic and no exaggeration.

This book will explore my journey and discovery about how to successfully take an asset rich but appreciation poor community like “Ontario’s Best Kept Secret” to a community that is still undergoing a Rural Renaissance today, is no longer the best kept secret and was reborn as Canada’s “First Creative Rural Economy”. I believe many of the lessons I learned are principles that are highly transferable to other communities across the globe.

This is a teaser introduction, just a sample of how I expect the chapter to unfold. I’m crowd-sourcing feedback. Think of this as a working draft, there will be better formatting and editing when the finished product is complete . If you have any thoughts along the way on how to enhance the story and care to share them with me I would genuinely appreciate that. I’m going to tweet this with a #CreativeEconomy and see what happens. Thanks for your interest.

Brief Background & Bio
As economic development officer, I pioneered the practice of Creative Rural Economy, Economic Development in Prince Edward County, Ontario for a decade starting in 2001. Now as the President and CEO of the Greater Peterborough Economic Development Commission and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster my role has expanded to include both urban and rural creative economy work. I have a keen interest in the economics of urban-rural interdependency. I also speak regularly to groups, organizations and conferences in order to help them grow their economies. I’ve spoken across Canada in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Want to Hear More?
I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise to help others on developing Creative Economies – Rural, Small Town & Big City too. To book me for speaking engagements, facilitation, workshops and more click here or email here.

 

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://cre8tivedant.com/2012/04/09/introduction-economic-development-is-like-a-farmers-market/

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