What do economic developers do, actually?
Ontario’s economic development professionals play a critical role in supporting investments, job creation, and innovation. But what is economic development, and what do economic developers actually do?
The answer depends on who you ask. Economic developers play diverse roles in supporting similarly diverse local and regional economies across the province. What they all have in common, however, is an intimate understanding of the competitive advantages that are on offer in their communities.
In this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario’, Nick is joined by three prominent members of Ontario’s community of economic developers: Wendy Stark (Director, Business Retention and Expansion – Invest Windsor-Essex), Cephas Panschow (Development Commissioner – Town of Tillsonburg), and Ken Scholtens (Manager, Business Development and Expedited Services – Niagara Economic Development).
While much of the conversation focused specifically on how economic developers support manufacturing in Ontario, our guests also identified several important functions and responsibilities of economic developers. First, economic developers provide a valuable interface between business and government. In other words, they speak both languages and can help ‘translate’ when necessary. Second, the strategies necessary to attract and retain particular types of businesses – including particular types of manufacturing – are nuanced and can vary from region-to-region and business-to-business. Third, not all investments are created equal, and not every investment is right for an individual region or municipality. That said, manufacturing investments tend to be more desirable than others, given the extent of their economic benefits vis-a-vis other industries (e.g. warehousing and logistics, retail). Finally, and perhaps most important, economies don’t grow by accident. They are the result of the combined and intentional efforts of a network of stakeholders – and these networks almost always include economic developers.
If you want to learn more about the work of economic developers (you know, the folks who bring you economic development) and how they support manufacturing, then this episode of ‘Making it in Ontario‘ is for you.
00:00-02:17 – Nick’s Intro
03:46-07:10 – The guests define ‘Economic Development’
07:11-10:29 – How to develop your region’s ‘Curb Appeal’…
10:30-15:23 – …to be appealing to the right investors. (The land-use discussion)
15:24-18:56 – Wendy – The shift to Automobility
18:57-21:24 – Ken – Life after GM
21:25-25:23 – Cephas – ‘Smokestack chasing’ is the way of the past
25:24-28:14 – The importance of knowing your regions’ comeptitive advantage
28:15-36:44 – Discussing each region’s competitive advantage
36:45-44:48 – Some positive COVID19 stories