Entrepreneurship added to rural Ontario, Canada’s economic development priorities

The changing face of rural economic development


Jeff Dixon / March 13, 2013

Since 2007, The Monieson Centre at Queen’s School of Business has been working with rural communities across Ontario to support economic development initiatives.  Central to this process has been two series of Discovery Workshops – community-centric events designed to build collaboration between academics and rural businesses.

Over the course of fifty workshops, we’ve seen a shift in how Ontario’s rural communities approach economic development.  The first series, held in 2008-2010, revealed three major priorities:

1. Build it Deep – Rural communities are looking for paths to sustainable economic development, strategies that will build/attract jobs that will remain for the long-term.

2. Build it Unique – Effective rural economic development needs to build on a community/region’s competitive advantage – those unique characteristics that differentiate it from others.  Strategies built on these elements need to be reflected in clear, cohesive branding to attract tourists, residents and investment.

3. Build it Wide – Rural communities need to diversify beyond single-industry dependency, to build a more resilient economic base.

As The Monieson Centre has followed-up with these communities in 2011-2013, a new emphasis has emerged: entrepreneurship.  As we met with community leaders across the region, it became apparent that many see the “economy of the 1’s and 2’s” as the future of rural Ontario’s economy.  Rather than traditional smokestack-chasing models, we are seeing communities foster innovation, small business development, and incubators, all to support a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit.  Likewise, new approaches to labour market development are being pursued, including entrepreneurial skills development programs, enterprise facilitation, and increased emphasis on newcomer and immigrant attraction.  This has led, in turn, to the pursuit of new sectors including arts and hertiage, the green economy and the knowledge economy.

At the 2013 Economic Revitalization Conference, The Monieson Centre will present findings on the state of economic development in rural Ontario, drawn from this latest round of workshops.  Over the course of the day, researchers and community leaders will present cutting-edge findings on the day’s theme, Building Rural Resilience through Entrepreneurship and Innovation.  Presentations and commentaries draw from new work conducted in rural Ontario to help communities find new ways forward to economic sustainability.

Full conference details [April 8, 2013] are available here.


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