Economic Development: where’s the state of the art research?
NanaimoCityHall blog commenter sunnydan points out in response to my cranky letter to the Daily News that in the interest of clarity we should define our terms. Quite right:
My definition of economic development goes along these lines: City Hall can and should provide an extremely important service to the city’s and the region’s economic health by acquiring the very best research and expertise that helps identify where our best competitive advantages lie. This is the biggest of the big picture analyses and requires the highest quality input. An analysis would include the research being done by people like Richard Florida who are identifying trends on a regional and global scale upon which sound planning could be based. (Interestingly, he’s called for a moratorium on conference centre and multiplex building. Interesting because his work is based on the emergence of creative, knowledge based industries that you might think would include these kinds of facilities. He’s helped small “bedroom communities” in proximity to cities like Boston turn what they saw as their greatest flaw — the commuting resident base — into an asset.) The smart money bases important decisions on this kind of state of the art research.
In economic development as in so many other areas City Hall and we citizens ourselves, settle for the parochial “we know what’s best for our city” approach and this leads to small influential groups getting themselves very excited about very expensive publicly funded projects.
Is there a sound basis for the development of conference centres, hotels, cruise ship terminals, destination golf courses? I honestly don’t know. There could be — but if City Hall knows they haven’t made the research the strategy is based on public. I’ve been reluctant to accept (but do now) that these developments have gone ahead without any of this expert analysis.
There are competitive advantages to being tucked into an exquisite harbour on the east coast of Vancouver Island an hour or two away from Vancouver and Victoria that are the envy of most small cities in the country. And so many other elements unique to this place. A better understanding of them and how they do or don’t point the way forward should be the basis of our planning. Can it be that the emerging economic giants of southeast Asia offer no opportunity for this little Pacific Coast city? Are we way over-invested in tourism and retiring boomers from Saskatoon?
City Hall’s EDO or Economic Development Commission should be studying best practices elsewhere. Some of the greatest economic successes for cities and their regions happen when the local universities integrate their resources into the civic and business worlds. Stanford and MIT in the US and Waterloo in Canada for instance. How integrated is our university into our economic future? It has an important payroll for sure and excels at bringing federal and provincial money into the region but I don’t think anyone would accuse it of being truly integrated into it’s city.
This is why I was so impatient with the Daily News editorial. If those folks are privy to the research on which this rush to build a hotel and a cruise ship terminal are based, great. If not they should be applying constant and considerable pressure on City Hall to get it done.
Do we tend to go from one basket of eggs to the other – you bet. We went from forestry to tourism. The trouble there is that the Canadian tourist isn’t exactly flush with money to spend so we get some money from some that may or may not retire here which leads to a greater stress on the local system because few of these people would be contributing to the tax base. That’s not a bad thing all together but for the working stiff, that’s just one more thing to deal with when taxes climb (again).
Should City Hall get the best of the best – surely you’d be complaining if that rate was 4 to 6 times what MH was getting paid? I know many around here would because all they see is the $$ and not the value that it brings. Personally, if someone adds value, real value then they are worth it if they can prove it.
The RDN will always be a bedroom community of Vancouver and Victoria but that doesn’t mean it has to remain in the dark ages. We should be able to commute to Victoria for work on a train – like Boston in well under 1 hour – but we can’t, we should be able to drive there in well under 90 minutes but we can’t and we should be able to have a choice of mobility options that move people and goods in a timely fashion throughout this region (Yellowpoint to Bowser) but we don’t – add another 400,000 + people and it only gets worse.
Projected population growth is another item I’d like to see good research on. Population has been about stable in the about 20 years I’ve been here. The city I grew up in in Ontario (Barrie) grew from a sleepy place of 18,000 to over 150,000 very quickly due to among other things its transportation links to Toronto and dozens of American firms opened branch plants or Canadian head offices. What forces will stimulate population growth here? Not just the weather. If it’s mostly retirees, how do you build a diverse, healthy economy from that? Planners will tell you that as far as land use is concerned the area which used to be inside the Urban Containment Boundary could accommodate infill population growth of 30,000 people or more.
I know what you are saying. When I moved to Calgary in 1996 the population there was 450K and when I left in 2005 it was 1.1M. Truly amazing. Granted other things at work there but nonetheless, interesting.
The trouble we have is it is the weather and the beauty of this place that will attract people, in droves. The issue is that with fewer and fewer people contributing to the tax base we have begun to slide down the slippery slope that will be very difficult to get out of. We can’t have 5M people in this province and only 1M workers, business owners etc. to pay the tax…
Look at Surrey. It used to be a farming town back in the 80’s and now it is BC’s largest city. If the RGS is capped at 3% as the plan is currently showing we will be in big trouble. If on the other hand we look at 6 or even 8% we have the opportunity to deal with the future – 20 years out.
Just an idea.
Interesting… RGS is Regional Growth Strategy? What’s the consequences of 6 or 8%?
How does population growth, in itself, become a desirable characteristic? Can we imagine what things will be like if world population doubles? I note that Mr. Earp left Calgary after it doubled in size. But where do we go from here.
I agree with him, however, that we are attracting the wrong kind of population growth. It appears likely that pension income will tank in the next 10-20 years, if not sooner, and all us seniors will be lucky to survive, let alone flourish.
Key point. I accept that a healthy city will quite naturally prosper and grow but it shouldn’t be an end for its own sake should it? This city has a role to play in the larger region — it’s a process of urbanization which centralizes cultural, economic and political energies for a number of reasons,among them our university, regional district government, larger population, transportation infrastructure … There’s lots of sleepy backwaters of course but I’ve always enjoyed living in a city which is growing into its potential.
Frank, talking of “Economic Development: where’s the state of the art research?”
This morning I received this e-mail from Ginna di Rossi, architect, in the office of Jaime Lerner architect Curitiba. You recall we petitioned the city to sponsor Jaime Lerner architect visit in January 2006.
The e-mail I received in original Portuguese . . .
É com imenso orgulho que dividimos com você uma grande novidade
Jaime Lerner foi escolhido pela revista norte-americana Time como um dos 25 pensadores mais influentes do mundo. A lista, que é anual, foi divulgada nesta quinta-feira (29).
A escolha de Jaime baseou-se em seu trabalho como urbanista. No seu perfil, escrito pelo prefeito de Vancouver,Gregor Robertson, a revista destaca o seu legado em sustentabilidade urbana. Jaime também foi o pioneiro no sistema de tráfego rápido de ônibus, BRT, que hoje é usado por todo o mundo.
”Cidades são onde as pessoas vivem, aos bilhões. Elas também são onde os problemas ambientais do planeta precisam de soluções ousadas. Ninguém entende isso melhor que Jaime Lerner”, diz a revista.
Na mesma categoria aparecem Zaha Hadid, arquiteta iraquiana, primeira mulher a receber o Prêmio Pritzker de Arquitetura; Steve Jobs, cofundador da Apple, e Sonia Sotomayor, a juíza americana de origem porto-riquenha que foi escolhida para ocupar um posto na Suprema Corte dos EUA.
Acesse o link abaixo e veja a reportagem completa.
Jaime Lerner Arquitetos Associados
The literal English translation:
It is with immense pride that we divide with you a great novelty
Jaime Lerner was chosen by the North American magazine Team as one of 25 thinkers more influential of the world. The list, which is annual, was spread in this Thursday (29).
Jaime’s choice was based on his work like town planner. In his profile written by the mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, the magazine detaches his legacy in sustentabilidade urbane. Jaime also was the pioneer in the system of quick traffic of bus, BRT, which today is used by everyone.
” Cities are where the persons live, to the billions. They also are where the environmental problems of the planet need daring solutions. Nobody understands that better than Jaime Lerner “, he says the magazine.
In the same category there appear Zahra Hasid, Iraqi architect, first woman to receive the Prize Ritzier of Architecture; Steve Jobs, cofounder of the Apple, and Sonia Soto mayor, the American judge of Puerto Rican origin who was chosen to occupy a post in the Supreme Court of the USA.
Access the link down and see the complete report.
http: // http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1984685,00.html
Jaime Lerner Acquitters Associates.
You will remember I visited Arquitectos Lerner in January 2006 bearing a letter from Mayor Korpan inviting him to visit Nanaimo. We took the precaution, also, to check with planner Andrew Tucker first to ensure his support which he offered enthusiastically.
On my return, you recall, we then met with council’s committee-of-the-whole with the good news that Arquitectos Lerner is very keen to visit Nanaimo.
AND WE WERE MET WITH BLANK STARES! Huh how sad!
No councilor, or staff member, could rise to the occasion of having this distinguished world-renowned planner come to our city. No one on council, nor the Mayor or director of planning had, nor have now, the vision to see the nation wide indeed world wide value: the enormous publicity.
Needless the say Director of Planning Tucker reneged on his earlier support, as did, then Mayor Korpan. Councilor Holdum pulled one of his usual infantile quips displaying his utter incompetence and lack of understanding the city.
Nanaimo has the misfortune to be saddled with a mediocre council and a staff equally so! And it shows . . .
Sin embargo I value my trip to Brasil and South America: maybe we will have better luck next time!
If we get so little vision from our Council (I will leave staff out of it as they get theirs from the City Manager, who gets his/hers from Council), perhaps it is because we demand so little.
Have you heard any cogent, let alone passionate, discussion from Council (or from individual Councillors for that matter) about a vision for Nanaimo that extends beyond the next big project? How is it that we elect these people once every three years -they would like to make it four- and then, not only go to sleep, but let them react to one request after another without the vision to build better than a patchwork?
Part of the problem is we demand so little another is we’ve been offered so little. A scan of council reveals an old-boys club made up of the hockey coach, the newspaper publisher, the tired, entrenched incumbents. Oh wait there’s one that comes from a tradition of grass roots neighbourhood activism and 21st century city-building (that’s Councillor Pattje). Where’s the voices from the professional communities for instance: the architects, engineers, medical professionals. Where’s the women from the professions, from the social services?
Frank, many of us work too hard for a living to be on council. (project managers)… LOL…