There was a significant shift between the old and new economies that occurred between the 1990’s and 2000’s. The old economy is filled with success stories of companies whose road to prosperity began initially by identifying an inexpensive place to do business in a community with preferential zoning and taxation policies and ideally, an established industrial park. People followed the jobs. Manufacturing businesses, largely dependent upon fossil fuels, were responsible for much of the economic growth.

The new economy is very much focused on knowledge and ideas. Today’s labour force is all about making strategic life choices beginning with identifying an appealing location and once in place, securing or creating work. These educated people seek recreational and cultural amenities in a clean, green location. The businesses that will succeed in this new economy are those using or developing high quality information-communications technology. These companies are energy smart and have programs in place that ensure management and staff are constantly learning and adapting. These businesses will be able to attract the new economy workers. New businesses will choose to locate where there is an educated pool of talent. This means in order to attract new businesses, we need first to attract the knowledge workers.

What has changed in this economic transition is the extent to which the strategies local governments used in the past to attract businesses are no longer effective. Attracting people to live in our area is one of the most basic and important economic development strategies. It shouldn’t be that difficult given all our natural assets but how practically do we do it?

First we need to decide who best to target. There are groups of people who are more likely to contribute to a local economy than are others. Those who are newly retired have savings and a lifetime of skills. Entrepreneur Immigrants, such as those who have registered in the BC PNP program, are important to a growing economy. Often these immigrants are well-educated and have already been vetted for their financial capacity to invest in the community. Finally, in this new economy where innovation and adaptability is required, it is advisable to consider how we can attract and retain educated youth.

Next month: It Takes a Region to Raise an Economy

Denny Warner,
Executive Director

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