Market readiness is a bit of a funny term, which is appropriate since economic development is a bit of a funny business. The reason I say economic development is a funny business is because of its fundamentals.
It’s the only profession I can think of where one is tasked to do many things including selling and marketing a product that you have no control over because you don’t own it. In almost every other results oriented business model, the sales and marketing functions are part of a corporation who owns and controls the finished product, product development, quality control, etc…
That’s not the case in economic development. The main reason for this is economic developers typically work for local governments or arms length agencies and are selling a place such a a city or region and sometimes land or buildings none of which they own. This presents quite a challenge as you might imagine. The question all good economic developers have to ask themselves is how do I get my “product” which I do not own nor control investment and market ready?
“What is my product”
In order to do that, two key steps are required and that is to ask “what is my product” and to answer the question of “why?” as in why would an investor want to invest in my community or product. When a community defines it’s economic development product and answers the “why” question it is market ready!
Regardless of ownership, economic developers should borrow from the great marketers of the world who in preparation for market readiness “position” their product with a “unique selling proposition” or USP which also answers the “why” question.
Before I go further I want to clarify that I believe the “product” that economic developers are selling is the community or place they represent, I don’t believe it is a piece of land or an empty building. This is a value add, strategic approach from which selling land and building tactics can follow. First you sell the place as a desirable community with a set of benefits for your target audience, then you sell specific opportunities including land and buildings.
It took a while but we finally settled in on Creative Rural Economy or more precisely “Canada’s First Creative Rural Economy” as the positioning for Prince Edward. Arguably it was the world’s first creative rural economy. I say that not to grandstand but to illustrate both how unique the positioning was and also how disappointed I was that I could not find similar rural communities with rural strategies and plans like ours underway when I was at “The County”.
Positioning and Unique Selling Proposition
We are working on Peterborough’s positioning and USP right now and are directionally leaning towards a concept like ”Peterborough – Innovation and Creativity leading on the edge”.
Peterborough is a post industrial small city and rural cottage country region with significant creative economy assets. It has a century long innovation legacy tied to General Electric (Peterborough was know as The Electric City, being the first to electrify in Canada) and today’s innovation is tied to post secondary institutions, a strong business and entrepreneurial culture and a regional health-care center.
We are defining our product as a small city and creative economy on the city’s edge that has five elements driving our economy. The creative economy positioning and 5 elements are all tied to growing sectors of both the regional and global economy. The five elements are Air, Water, Earth, Fire and Life. The Creative Economy positioning along with each element contains competitive areas of strength that we are articulating and making clear to investors to answer the question why invest in Peterborough or “why” Peterborough.
The Creative Economy and Five Elements are as Follows:
The Creative Economy represents our creative occupations and labour force or people who are paid to think. We have an incredible Quality of Place that is the kind of overall environment which appeals to creative economy workers. The creative class labour force cuts across all sectors and elements of the economy and is where creativity, innovation and quality of place intersect and are the driving force to future prosperity.
Air is a bit of a play on words. Our “air” focus is on Aerospace and Aviation. Recently $30,000,000 was spent to upgrade our regional airport which is positioned as an aviation industrial park. We have a world class aviation company called Flying Colours and a dozen or so other companies in the aviation and aerospace supply chain as well Seneca College, which has Canada’s only flight training center and is moving those operations to our expanded airport. The global business aviation industry is expected to double the number of airplanes from approximately 18,000 to 38,000 over the next 15-20 years.
Water. Trent University has one of the top laboratories in the world with respect to source water pollution detection and Fleming College runs a top notch Centre for Alternative Wastewater Treatment. As well we have numerous knowledge based consulting businesses in the clean technology water sector plus several manufactures of water focused implements. The innovation, research and development combined with our knowledge based water industries position us well in the growing clean technology water sector. The Trent-Severn Waterway weaves its way though our region. Peterborough & The Kawarthas is home to many glorious lakes and is well know as “cottage country”. Certainly water as a recreational and tourism asset supports economic prosperity and growth.
Earth represents our rural region with a rich agricultural legacy and unlimited potential tied to innovation and the burgeoning local food movement. It’s tied to our urban scapes, open spaces and trail systems. Sustainability is tied to earth as is Quality of Place. Arguably much of our $300 million per year tourism industry is also tied to earth.
Fire represents the energy sector. Interestingly Peterborough has a nuclear cluster and supply chain with 18 companies directly involved and another 6 or 7 who have expressed interest and some post secondary activity tied to nuclear. There is demand via the nearby Darlington Nuclear Reactor which is expected to undergo a 10 year 10 billion dollar “referub” and our companies and community are well positioned to benefit from this increased demand. There are other potential regional and global growth areas for Peterborough to position itself as a nuclear cluster as well. There are other energy opportunities tied to the renewable category such as hydro electricity, solar, geothermal, wind and conservation initiatives driven through our sustainability plan.
Life. Last but certainly not least “Life” is at the center of any community and modern economy. This is where our health and wellness, creative and tourism industries are. Our skills training and post secondary economy, where we train creative occupations and the labour force resides in the “Life” element as well. Life is also about Quality of Place our number one competitive advantage to retain and attract talent and the creative class.
As economic developers, our job is to articulate our economy, our unique selling proposition and wrap it in an easy to understand, easy to sell and therefore easy to buy package. That is what market readiness is.
In Peterborough our market readiness is starting with overall internal corporate and staff awareness of the above and include a clear articulation of our product in our web-site, other collateral materials that reinforces our USP to our target markets. Then we will take our message to the proverbial streets. As the execution and implimentation of our marketing plan unfolds I expect that we will be successful in growing the economy based on our approach and clarity in message and persistence in execution.
This is my chapter 3 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.