Broadband the key to economic development in the Koots
One thing everyone seemed to agree on at the Community Futures Economic Development Forum held in late May was that the economy is shifting towards broadband dependent industries. And that local communities need to adapt and keep up.
Community Futures Central Kootenay hosted and organized the conference at the Prestige Lakeside Resort in Nelson. The forum’s purpose was to discuss how to leverage broadband technology to boost community economic development and help local business succeed in the digital age.
“Community Futures works to support communities to enhance their local economies,” says Andrea Wilkey, Executive Director at Community Futures Central Kootenay. “There is an opportunity to strengthen our broadband economy to future-proof our region and be competitive in the future.”
The research shows that broadband clearly drives economic prosperity. Broadband is super high-capacity internet infrastructure, commonly referred to as the ‘fourth utility’ in economic development circles. Communities are expected to provide traditional utilities such as power, water and sewer … and now broadband.
Dr. Terri MacDonald, guest speaker and Regional Innovation Chair at the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute, is a strong advocate for transitioning to a broadband economy to attract ‘knowledge industries’, businesses that deal in information rather than physical products. According to MacDonald, knowledge economies open up markets, create employment and attract mobile professionals seeking a fantastic place where they can live and work.
The use of smart phones, tablets and laptops in daily life is increasing exponentially and will continue to do so. We are becoming more and more dependent on digital devices and cloud-stored data; hence the absolute necessity for community broadband explained Amber Hayes, guest speaker and Basin Business Advisors Program Manager.
One city that has experienced phenomenal economic success because it embraced broadband is Stratford, Ontario – home to the Stratford Theatre Festival. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 Stratford was voted one of the world’s top seven ‘intelligent communities’ by the Intelligent Community
Forum, a non-profit policy research organization focused on job creation and economic development in the broadband economy.
Intelligent communities strategically build a culture that makes their town or region an incredibly attractive place to live and work, helping existing businesses grow while also attracting new business and new residents.
“The digital economy is the path things are on,” said Paul West, keynote speaker and Business Developer at Stratford-owned Rhyzome Networks. “Local government in Stratford couldn’t just sit back and simply hope everything would be okay. The city had to make an active decision.”
And that decision was to be prepared for opportunity. Having broadband infrastructure solidly in place, coupled with a business community that was supported and educated in using digital tools, was instrumental to Stratford’s success.
Hearing Stratford’s story, along with stimulating panel discussions at the forum, encouraged and galvanized attendees. Community economic development partners left the conference united in their support for a regional and collaborative approach to strengthening our broadband economy.
To see video highlights, presentations and contact information from the Community Futures Community Economic Development Forum, please visit www.futures.bc.ca/cedforum.
Community Futures is a not-for-profit community economic development organization that is committed to helping people who are operating or are planning to start their own businesses.