As a Regional Enterprise Network, the Valley REN has a unique perspective on economic development. While directly serving the needs of business – through our BusinessNOW program, for example – we also have a mandate to generate economic development benefits for the region as a whole, on behalf of our member municipalities and Glooscap First Nation.
With this perspective in view, the Valley REN staff who attended the recent annual conference of the Economic Developers Association of Canada (EDAC) in Fredericton were particularly interested in a panel presentation called “Planning is NOT the Enemy.” This panel explored the relationship between municipal planning and economic development. It also touched on challenges and opportunities that arise when a regional perspective is applied to local planning choices.
One of the panellists in this interesting conversation was Greg Landry, who at the time was Senior Advisor, Regional Planning and Economic Development, at the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs. (He has recently become a Director with the Department of Business.) Landry’s key point was well illustrated in the image, above, which he included in his slide deck.
Land-use planning, said Landry, can “deter” or “enable” economic development. On the downside, planning systems can lead to lengthy permitting processes, regulatory uncertainty or restrictive zoning. On the upside, planning can create an environment for growth, safeguard economic assets, and help attract and retain residents.
All the factors on the downside of land-use planning are magnified when considered from a regional viewpoint, spanning multiple municipalities. As an investor, or a developer or a new business looking for the right location, how would you sort through all the municipal-specific bylaws and zoning information to select your preferred location?
The upside factors are also magnified from a regional standpoint. When municipal planning choices are made intentionally to create an environment for growth, and to help attract and retain people, our whole region benefits.
It is exactly at this juncture – where “local” and “regional” meet – that the Valley REN plays a unique and valuable role. We can foster the local-regional dialogue that will unlock opportunities that span more than one municipality.
Here is just one example. In the coming months, the Valley REN will be engaging with municipal leaders and staff to identify their communities’ unique selling points. We will do this so that we can promote our municipalities to tourists, potential residents, and future employees and investors. We believe that by focusing on our communities’ unique selling points (the “local” view), we will be in a stronger position to market the Valley (the “regional” view). At the same time, we will be asking municipalities about land, property and other physical assets that offer the best opportunities for local development, while also delivering regional or provincial economic benefits.
We hope the end result of fostering local-regional dialogue will be stronger, more sustainable communities and a more prosperous region.
As research analyst for the Valley REN, Rachel Brighton brings 25 years’ experience as a journalist, editor, publisher, manager, consultant and not-for-profit director in Canada and Australia.