Friday, August 30, 2013

Developing for Livability

Over the past few years, Clarenville has budgeted quite a few dollars for what has been dubbed as Economic Development activities.  The focused goal has been to spur business development in the town and generate money.  This has been met with varying degrees of success (depending on who you talk to)  (see my previous post on this )

I would like to propose a radical rethink of this approach.

First and foremost, the term Economic Development is much too narrow and too focused on money rather than the people it is supposed to benefit.  What we really need to talk about is Community Development.  The goal of community development is to take efforts to improve the “livability” of our town by making it a better place to live for its citizens and by creating a positive experience for its visitors.  

This is known as “Placemaking” and has been the subject of much research as of late.  Placemaking’s goal is to make our communities people focused and that in turn attracts people and therefore business opportunity to a community.  (Read Dennis Mahoney’s article on this from last week’s Telegram  “Happy cities are good for the economy” to get a better sense of what I am talking about and why I am talking about it).  

I was first introduced to this Placemaking concept a few years back while sitting on Council.  We (the College and the Town) were part of a research project (involving Clarenville) that was conducted by Memorial University’s Harris Centre.  In this research we measured the factors that attracted people – particularly young and educated people - to a region and what kept them in that region as productive and engaged citizens. Once you get beyond the academic gobble-goop, the report’s findings suggested that PLACE and the things in and about the PLACE attract and retain people, which in turn creates business opportunity.  You can read the report HERE

A two pronged approach - Refocus on Community Development

Our Town is our people.  Businesses come and businesses grow because of our people.  

If we have a healthy community with healthy people living in it, we create the opportunity that businesses need to develop.   The Town’s job should be to focus on its people.   By ACTIVELY supporting/investing/building/maintaining socially responsible housing, people focused subdivision development, great parks & trails, excellent recreation facilities and providing opportunities for townspeople to be proud of their community, the Town can create (and measure) real "Development".   

A two pronged approach - Refocus Economic Development Efforts (Onto People!)

I truly believe that our best opportunities for economic development are right under our nose.  Each year THOUSANDS of people come to or through Clarenville – we are wasting efforts on attracting them! (see The Packet - Councillor at Large, Aug 29)   

As evidence of the opportunity take a look at the last couple editions of The Packet.  Over the past few weeks we saw stories about the absolute success of Clarenville’s Ryan Power’s Atlantic Ice Worriors Hockey School in the Clarenville Events Centre (Back On the Ice, Aug 22, pg9), and about the success of the Random Sounds concert at White Hills (Page 1,  Aug 29, pg10).  Add to this the White Hills Resort , the Clarenville Caribous, The 2014 Winter Games, the 2015 Allan Cup plus all the numerous Volleyball, Basketball, Softball and Hockey tournaments that take place here and around here each year. THOUSANDS come here because of all of these thing that are going on here - and more.

Each of these events bring thousands of people (mostly young ones and their families) to our town and make the ones who live here prouder of that fact (Go Cougars! Go Caribous!).  Consider if we were to simply focus ALL of our current Economic Development efforts on increasing the value of what I will dub “The Clarenville Experience”  on our visitors and on our local people.  

We know it works!

The Town has proven this approach works. Witness the on the success of the investment in the Events Centre, White Hills Resort, the Middle School Gym, the Soccer pitch etc. at attracting people to the town and adding to the quality of life for the Town's residents  

I would argue that further investing in placemaking would create more benefit, attract and retain more people, create more business opportunity and the benefits would be more easily measured.

1 comment:

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