How’s that Economic Development Thing Coming Along?
Frank Murphy — August 23, 2010
Mayor Ruttan told the Daily News on August 20 that interest in establishing a passenger ferry into Vancouver harbour had “fizzled”. No mention of whether or not this related to the exciting news that some months ago the mayor announced he’d be revealing very soon — any day now. I had noticed in the meeting minutes of the Economic Development Commission that there was discussion about a proposal for a 90 passenger hovercraft service.
Cities like Sudbury, emerging from the decline of mining and/or manufacturing are taking an approach to economic development that holds lessons for the new challenges Nanaimo faces. Globe and Mail reporter Adam Radwanski in his Why the Big Nickel’s a magnet for global education describes how the hard scrabble town, with guidance and big bucks from the provincial government, is hitching its wagons to a knowledge based future by, among other initiatives, working with its Laurentian University to recruit foreign students, particularly in post graduate pursuits.
Where we see tourism as our saviour, here’s what else Sudbury is doing to diversify its economic base:
- expanded the university
- opened a new francophone college
- health care made a priority including the creation of a new medical school
- new cancer research centre
- Provincial Ministry of Northern Development moved from Toronto
- Science North opened as a kid friendly tourist attraction.
- a concerted effort to build on the city’s past by becoming a leader in mining technology that can be used elsewhere.
You may not know or may not want to be reminded that the original concept for the Mayor’s Economic Development Commission did not include Vancouver Island University President Ralph Nilson. It had to be impressed upon him and his Council colleagues that you might want your local university at that particular table.
I think it is safe to say that we haven’t seen economic development in so long that we wouldn’t recognize her if she made us an offer in the street.
Most of the people “at the table” think a hotel tower represents economic development. Its hard to imagine the university president having much of an impact on a group of people who really don’t have a clue about what they are doing.
The consultants report has been presented to the Economic Development Commission. The report in the Daily Snooze
( http://www2.canada.com/nanaimodailynews/news/story.html?id=728604d8-64c8-4aed-85d6-89b21e294143 )
this a.m. made it sound like something right out of the Dilbert comic strip… Can it possibly be such tired hooey? Market harder and it’ll all be fine…. nevermind the underlying realities. I’m trying to track down a copy…
All we have to do is: “By conducting an economic strategic plan and hiring a new economic development officer, Nanaimo will immediately score much higher in future assessments.” (from the above referenced article) We may not get any more economic development but, by golly, if we just hire a new economic development officer, we will “…immediately score much higher in future assessments.” It does sound like Dilbert to me.
The city has, in its GIS and other information systems, a land inventory which appears to have languished despite its development. We have every parcel, every owner, every development status, assessment, etc. already on line. What appears to be missing is the imagination to use it, though I suspect that this too exists in the city, but remains submerged.
I wish the Economic Development Commission well, but spending money should not be their first objective.
PS: The Economic Development Commission may also wish to contact VIU’s new VP-Academic, Dr. David Witty. Read his bio here:
This man could be an invaluable resource.