Last month I discussed the strategy of growing the economy by attracting more people to live in an area and suggested the most desirable groups to target based on their ability and willingness to contribute to the overall health of a community are baby boomers, entrepreneurial immigrants and millennials. Now we will look at how the quality of place matters in attracting newcomers.

In this new economy, the jobs and employers are locating where the talent is and talented people are choosing to live in what are described as “quality places”. There are many components of a quality place and each community will have its own unique identifiers. Broadly speaking, knowledge workers looking to relocate seek the following in a community: a focus on green initiatives and sustainable growth, an excellent transportation system, cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities, a high level of community engagement, a growing economy, access to medical health professionals, locally-grown food, and safety.

No single municipality embodies all the components of a quality place but regions often can and do. People move to regions with little regard for, or awareness of, artificial geographic boundaries.  It is the sum of the parts of the municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula, and easy access to Victoria and all it offers, that makes this area attractive to talented newcomers.

There is a thriving world-wide movement called Placemaking which begins with citizens working together to improve their local environment. Placemaking is committed to “strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. Placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. More than just promoting better urban design, placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution” (Project for Public Spaces).

The placemaking process is an important strategy for attracting talented people and growing the economy in a region. We would do well to consider the flow of people and funds on the Saanich Peninsula and how investment in any one of our three municipalities benefits the entire region. The largest structural barriers faced by placemakers in Canada are comprised of regulations, bylaws and siloed municipalities.  The Saanich Peninsula could be an exceptional “quality place” if we could ditch the old model that has served to isolate municipalities in the region and instead institute a framework that is participatory and collaborative.

Next month: Building Bridges between Institutions

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

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