How’s that Economic Development Thing Coming Along?

Big Nickel

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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.