I was impressed with the facilitation at our recent Economic Summit that had been arranged by the Planning Committee. It certainly contributed to a successful event and the notes are quickly being assembled to develop next steps.
Here are my introductory remarks along with some of the visuals that were presented for those unable to attend. It provides a high level overview of our economic development strategy.
Economic Summit Remarks
I am pleased to welcome you to the inaugural Guelph-Wellington Economic Summit, a special welcome to those participating from other communities. I want to thank the Planning Committee that organized this Summit – it required a lot of coordination and hard work.
I also want to recognize the contribution of the Economic Summit Business Champions – business owners from the City and the County – who provided important feedback to the Planning Committee as they developed today’s program.
In this morning’s session, I am pleased to be joined by Chris White, Warden of Wellington County and Trevor McPherson from Ontario Chamber of Commerce. Our job, in the next few minutes, is to set the context for the Summit.
Why are we here today?
Let me start by answering why the City is here. For several decades, Guelph City Council has allocated funds for economic development activities to promote investment and job growth in our community.
The nature of those activities is changing as our world changes and the role of local government evolves.
We continue to provide traditional municipal services to our community. However, in today’s global economic environment, our community must distinguish itself as regional and global competition for investment and jobs increases. That brings a new understanding to the role of local government and building a strong long economy.
Great city building matters. Diversity matters. Our sense of attachment to place matters.
The level attachment people feel for their community is directly linked to the health and resilience of the local economy. Are we a welcoming a community to all people? A key concern as our community becomes more diverse and needs to attract and retain talent. Is our community designed to provide for positive social interaction? Do we care about the natural and created beauty of our community?
These are important questions as they are the key drivers of the level of attachment people feel for their community and, consequently, the health and resilience of the local economy.
In Guelph, we continue to build a diversified and thriving economy and it is no accident that simultaneously we also enjoy a high quality of life, high levels of volunteerism, low crime rates, and a highly expressed capacity for innovation and working collaboratively across all sectors.
Today’s Summit provides a great opportunity to look back and see where we are with regard to our 10 year Economic Development Plan.
We established the Mayor’s Taskforce on the Economy in 2009 – a consortium with private sector, academic, institutional and government representation. This Taskforce was instrumental in the development of the 10-year economic development strategy for the City of Guelph which we call Prosperity 2020.
Collaboration and consultation were the key drivers and I thank all stakeholders involved in the development of the Plan. The Plan is not a City Hall plan but a community plan. Its successful execution depends upon the contribution of many stakeholders.
Prosperity 2020 provides strategic direction to ensure that Guelph’s economy is competitively positioned to 2020. We developed the Plan in the middle of the recession to ensure we were ready to respond to a recovering economy. Thanks to the entrepreneurs in our region, today we enjoy one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. It is prudent, three years down the line, to review the assumptions and conclusions we made, and reconfirm those that are still relevant. It also gives us the opportunity to consider emerging issues and identify gaps – like the concern about youth unemployment.
So in a nutshell, from a Guelph perspective, we are here to revisit the findings of Prosperity 2020 and confirm its priorities.
Our partnership with the County of Wellington and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce in hosting this Summit brings an important and timely regional and provincial perspective to our discussions. The timing could not have been better with the regional consultations that the Ontario Chamber has been conducting as well as the recent completion of an economic development strategy by the County of Wellington.
I would like to thank the Ontario Chamber for choosing to host a consultation in our region and Lloyd Longfield for his help in making this happen. I would also like to recognize the leadership of Warden White who continues to express interest in collaborating with the City on economic development opportunities of mutual interest.
There were two phases in developing the Plan. The first was the Economic Base Analysis. The key findings were:
Guelph’s employment activity rate was higher than that of the Province and Country
- 75% of Guelph’s residents were employed within the City
- Good supply of regional labour force
- Ethnic diversity was lower than Provincial and national averages, but changing significantly
- Good supply of employment lands
- Well served by road, rail and air
- Well positioned with water and wastewater capacity
Guelph was identified as having competitive advantages:
- Local commitments with the right leadership
- We were well positioned to access markets and labour
- We had good availability of Green Field, In-fill and Brownfield properties
- Good access to well educated, diversely skilled and young workforce
- Better competitive costs – development charges, property, utilities, labour wages- compared to GTA
Guelph was also identified as having some disadvantages:
- High percentage of Guelph’s employment was in the advanced manufacturing sector which makes Guelph vulnerable to global economic markets and restructuring
- Lack of ethnic diversity that could negatively impact attracting new talent
- We were lagging in terms of employment growth in emerging sectors
- Our costs were higher in terms of home purchase and industrial tax rates
The second phase focused on strategic directions and priorities. The consultant recommended several strategic directions. Of these, 5 priorities were identified for initial action for the first few years.
- Focusing on growth sectors
- Re-positioning Guelph as a premier business investment location
- Investing in the downtown
- Strengthening governance, profile and reach
- Investing in tourism
I often see Lloyd pull out this visual summary of Prosperity 2020 at meetings. It should be helpful to you in further understanding the strategic directions.
And finally, you have been provided with a Prosperity 2020 Scorecard which summarizes the strategic directions, the activities identified to support those directions and the status of those activities.
The scoreboard reflects the contributions from all sectors and organizations represented on Connect Guelph which has been established to lead the implementation of the Plan:
- The Guelph Chamber of Commerce
- Innovation Guelph
- University of Guelph
- Guelph Wellington Business Enterprise Centre
- Conestoga College
- Local Immigration Partnership
- Downtown Guelph Business Association
- City of Guelph
- Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation (SW Ontario Office)
- County of Wellington – Economic Development Office
- Ontario Co-operative Association (Guelph Office)
Our commitment to collaboration, innovation and cultivating talent is a big part of our success and so these principles are well reflected in the organization of today’s summit. As we move forward, we will continue to work with many partners and stakeholders to serve our respective citizens and businesses, increase our community’s attractiveness for investment and strengthen our local economy.