Going region-wide on economic development

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

Late last month the finance and corporate services committee for the city of Kitchener decided to support, in principle, the establishment of a new office that would give Kitchener a role in economic development region wide.  And this past Monday, Waterloo’s city council voted unanimously to support the decision as well.

Justin McFadden, executive director of economic development at the city of Waterloo acknowledged that  “the expectation is that everybody will be on board” in regard to Cambridge and the other municipalities contained within the region.

The decision came after a study was completed by the consulting firm Malone Given Parsons Ltd. and the CAOs of all the municipalities, as well as the Region of Waterloo.  According to the CAO of Kitchener, Jeff Wilmer, this office “would address gaps in delivering services across the region.”

“The perception is often that other municipalities are our competition, but really, they are our partners,” expressed committee chair Scott Davey. “We should work together.”
Other recommendations that came out of the study included the approval of a Region-wide economic development corporation and creating a corporation tailored to developing employment lands.

The creation of these corporations would be done with the assistance of Canada’s Technology Triangle (CTT). CTT and the proposed corporations would work in conjunction with each other and be complimentary entities.

“We’re all looking forward to ensuring a singular direction we can work towards and that is very important, because considering all of the different organizations that exist out there … some of them aren’t necessarily all aligned with each other,” explained John Jung, the CEO of CTT.

According to Jung, this isn’t intended to be an exercise in top-down decision-making and governance.

“They’re going to be working with all of the various partners and municipalities and townships and groups like CTT. They’re going to be working towards one key strategic direction that we can all work towards,” he clarified. “We’re going to get there by all of us working together on that strategy.”

“The focus is really specifically around employment lands, which is where a lot of corporations look to invest … If they want to come and set up a new facility they’ll look to purchase employment lands and build a factory or build an office” added McFadden.

By virtue of having three post-secondary institutions in the Region, knowledge-based firms are often attracted to the area to seek recent graduates as employers.

With respect to co-op students,  Jung explained that general awareness of the brand of Waterloo Region is beneficial to the reputation of students who are searching for jobs.  “As a result of that, it makes it so much easier for the co-op students to find jobs internationally, nationally and locally,” he said.

As well as guiding the region’s economy with the assistance of other firms, this plan will market the region as a brand of intelligence, innovation and co-operation for years to come.

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