Saturday, October 01, 2005

Economic Development in Maple Ridge 2006/10

Economic Delivery Service Model (Revitalized)

"An innovative and learning organization," is precisely what all organizations in the market and non-market sector should aim to be.

How do we measure "public trust?" Public trust would depend, it seems, on the performance of the District of Maple Ridge; the real and perceived performance.

"Establish an economic strategy as a means to structure a positive business and investment climate within Maple Ridge." Public trust is directly linked to to the notion of developing a positive investment climate. More often than not, these two components (or ingredients) of civic management [developing a positive investment climate, and public trust] may in practice contradict one another. Where public trust is weakened or lost, whether perceived or real, the goal of developing a positive investment climate is undermined. When managing two components such as these, for which performance measurement is subjective and only loosely dealt with in the understanding of civic affairs, the potential is high for a local government to loose its way.

These ill-defined components are made no less clear when they confluence within an economic delivery service model, unless that model itself is predicated on the specific geographical, demographical, physcographical and economic realities and characteristics of the District for which it [the Economic Delivery Service Model] is designed. In other words, all the parts have to be well known, well assembled and well run if the civic machine is to succeed.

"Implement the model for the delivery of economic development that builds on the strengths of Maple Ridge." Or Paris, New York, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Baghdad or Kabul. A battalion of business plan writers would be hard pressed to write this sentence any other way. Many statements can be found in the formulaic language of modern economic studies. Discovering what the strengths themselves are and where they exist (are the natural, human, hereditary, climatic or geographic) is the key to living up to this grand statement. Understanding how these strengths are influenced by what Jane Jacobs refers to as "jolts" and "strains" makes for a complex, arduous and long journey where the destination may somewhat more elusive than the simple formulaic statement may suggest. In the fast-moving conditions of this present era, civilization is moving so rapidly that no sooner has last year's formula been uttered than it appears out of place in a yet newly arrived economic milieu.
More often than not the manager may appear to be in control of his economic model, but the external and internal jolts and stresses pound relentlessly on the plan, sometimes with windfall results, sometimes with retrogressive results.

Interestingly, the ability of most other departments within any given organization to function and grow relies almost entirely on the outcomes of the local economy. Notwithstanding this we often find that no department for the organization and development of the local economy exists. Canada and its mid-sized to small cities and districts are not alone in this deficit. More recently governments have awoken to the need for initializing and nurturing separate economic development departments and even more recently we see the trend towards business improvement associations (not that we should confuse business with economics - a common misconception, perhaps made more so by council members than staff and third party advisors.)

The rush toward populating local governments with economic development facilities comes, however, with a "government warning"; even though government perhaps is not fully equipped to warn itself. The warning is: do not fall into the formulaic state, be aware of the unique characteristics that constitute in effect the DNA of your community. When thinking of your strengths break them into to three perhaps less obvious strengths; organizational strengths, defensive strengths, and offensive strengths. Below each strength identify subsets of strengths such as human, geographical, social, financial and "indicative" [indicative strengths are the exciting ones: a new Fraser Crossing, the 2010 Winter Olympics, the prospect of spin-off industry and commerce from the province's drive toward opening up trade with China and other developing economies in the Pacific Rim. Be aware too of the "indicative weaknesses" such as higher gas prices, the attitude of the US towards its trading partners and its own proclivity for subsidiarity and its aversion to international fiscal accountability. All of these things count when one makes the statement: "Implement the model for the delivery of economic development that builds on the strengths of Maple Ridge." It is is not that the audience does not understand the goal; it is that the audience does not have the need to understand the complexities and it is therefore the responsibility of the manager to at least point to the complexity, thereby enhancing public trust and going some way towards nurturing a climate wherein an outsider may be lured to invest and the incumbent community may be tempted to stay, or as we put it, be retained (meaning, restrained from leaving Maple Ridge.)

The indications are from this viewpoint, entering the fourth quarter of 2005, that the future for Maple Ridge is bright; bestowed upon us doubtless by the simple fact that the we lie in one of the outer circles of this pond in British Columbia, not far from the genus Vancouver, not too distant from the wilderness which is Canada's gift to its people. Jolts and stresses from as near as places called Translink and the GVRD or from as far as Baghdad, New Orleans, Delhi, Hong Kong and Taipei are loaded in an unseen barrel waiting for the order to be fired in our direction. We sense that they will be benevolent; we can't be sure.

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