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A digital toolkit for Ec Dev 2.0 | Number 23 | Circ 6,483

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The US and UK launch StartUp programs for small businesses

In the last decade, it has become increasingly clear that employment growth and economic diversification is largely driven by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). According to Statistics Canada, 48% of the Canadian labour force works in small private businesses, which generate almost one third of the country's GDP. The proliferation of small business incubators in Canadian communities reflects this trend.

Two new programs in the United States and the United Kingdom reflect the importance of small businesses in leading those economies out of their economic turmoil. On January 31, 2011, the Startup America campaign was launched in the US, followed by the launch of StartUp Britain in the UK on March 28th. Although they are implemented in different ways, both programs bring together public and private sectors to provide funding and resources to small business owners and entrepreneurs.

StartUp Britain – which has secured the participation of major firms such as Microsoft and Virgin Media – plans to deliver a £1,500 benefits package for every start-up company in Britain, including a host of online tools and business education programs in UK universities and schools.

The Startup America program, on the other hand, takes a systems approach to entrepreneurship and innovation, committing to match private sector funds in support of proven models for entrepreneurship education and mentorship, access to capital, and commercialization of federally-funded research and development – including the support of incubation and acceleration centres. The federal government is backstopping this partnership with two $1 billion initiatives: an Impact Investment Fund will invest in companies in underserved communities and emerging sectors and provide a 2:1 match to private capital; and an Early-Stage Innovation Fund, which will target the gap in financing between $1 million and $4 million by providing a 1:1 match to private capital.

Though the effectiveness of these programs remains to be seen, they both represent a bold, perhaps somewhat controversial, step forward in increasing and formalizing the role of the private sector in encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation – one that could be replicated on a smaller scale in communities across Canada.

Urban studies meets Web 2.0

How do you view your City? IBM and the makers of City Forward view cities as a collection of systems that generate data and interact with one another in complex relationships that can produce significant impacts at the city level. The free web-based platform is premised on the concept that data from those systems can be used to generate conclusions and stimulate discussions about the future of a city, while acting as a means to increase the transparency and accountability of policy and decision makers by placing valuable data into the hands of the general public. Do toll increases, for example, actually reduce traffic congestion? Do major sporting events like the Olympic Games generate employment opportunities for a city? These are just a few of the explorations often generated by users from available data to stimulate discussion. Currently, the data available ranges from national-level sources such as Statistics Canada, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau, to city-level sources such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA), and the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics. The strength of City Forward is the ability to collaborate with users from around the world to debate the validity of available data and the conclusions generated through each of the visualizations, all through easy-to-use tools.

Though the data on Canadian cities is limited to Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver, the concept of an online platform where users can engage in open and data-supported discussions about the issues and challenges facing our cities is an excellent example of the intersection of city policy and decision making with Web 2.0 tools. Cities around Canada like Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, and Edmonton, are sharing previously private data about their urban systems – transportation, parcels, traffic, utilities – with the public through data catalogues. However, the audience for this information is still primarily application developers and computer programmers. A number of smart phone applications, for instance, have emerged based on this data – want to find a drinking fountain in Vancouver or report a civic issue to the City of Ottawa? Though a significant undertaking, a tool similar to City Forward at the local level could make increasingly public data more accessible to a greater number of people and stimulate a broader discussion on the future of our communities.

Supporting youth integration into the workplace

There's been no shortage of discussion lately about the impact of the recession on young people. With an increasing number of millennials joining the workforce, governments and communities alike are giving attention to the growing challenge of youth unemployment. In response, countries are developing policies and introducing programs, and communities are looking at innovative approaches to attract and retain this key labour force population.

Across OECD member nations, the unemployment rate among youth typically hovers around roughly double whatever the normal rate for those over 25 is. But that ratio skyrocketed to 2.8 times during the recent recession and shows no signs of slowing (click here to hear what Don Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at TD Bank Financial Group, has to say on this important topic). In Iceland and Sweden the youth unemployment rate is more than four times the national rate. Looking closer to home, Canadian data reflects the OECD’s findings. The national unemployment rate, as stated by Statistics Canada, sat at 7.7 per cent in March 2011, while the rate for youth (15-24 years old) was close to double that at 14.4%.

Concerns have been raised as to the longer term impact facing individuals who spend extended periods of time out of the workforce or underemployed. People who spend large amounts of time out of work in their teens and twenties face a lifelong risk of lower earnings. The OECD warns that "there is now a very real concern that the recession will produce a 'lost generation' of young people with slimmer long-term job prospects".

If you're looking for guidance on how to deal with this issue in your community, the OECD's position paper, Off to a Good Start: Jobs for Youth, presents a case for a focused approach to addressing the challenge of youth unemployment and the OECD's website has several useful resources on the topic.

What makes a city happy?

What makes a city a great place to live? The recently released MoneySense ranking of Canada's Best Places to Live 2011 offers some insight into this question (the top five are Ottawa-Gatineau, ON; Victoria, BC; Burlington, ON; Kingston, ON; and St. Albert, AB). The ranking is based on criteria such as housing affordability, incomes, job prospects, crime rates and access to health care. Even weather is taken into account (an important factor given the Canadian winter!). Similarly, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index measures the health and well-being of Americans based on life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviours, and access to basic necessities. In a recent article on the Gallup index, Dr. Richard Florida of the Martin Prosperity Institute examined the influence of these factors on the happiness of cities. Florida suggests that education levels, human capital, and the nature of the job market and workforce (that is, the share of jobs in knowledge-based, professional and creative industries) in addition to income contribute to the overall happiness of communities. As economic development professionals we are constantly aiming to improve the overall quality of life in our communities, but it can sometimes be difficult to determine where we can have the strongest impact. Rankings like these provide some guidance on the factors that can help to create communities that will attract the workers and businesses needed to grow the local economy.

Success factors of high-performing economic development organizations

Economic development is a rapidly evolving and progressing profession. As the economy recovers from significant challenges, the capacity and performance of economic development organizations are paramount to the prosperity and growth of communities of all sizes. Recently, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), under the guidance of the Economic Development Research Partners program, conducted a study to develop a framework for defining the characteristics of a high-performing economic development organization (EDO). The study is significant to economic development organizations in any jurisdiction because it highlights ways in which organizations can improve their efficiency and performance.

A high-performing EDO is an organization that not only fulfills its mission by following internal best practices, but also builds relationships and community capacity to foster prosperity. The study identifies eight success factors of high-performing EDOs. High-performing EDOs:

  • Are customer driven
  • Operate with a strong strategic plan
  • Measure results and adjust accordingly
  • Showcase adaptability/entrepreneurship/risk taking
  • Build strong alliances and networks
  • Earn the trust and respect of their communities
  • Are efficient with funding and resources
  • Invest in their people

A key theme emerging from this study was the adaptability of the EDO to the changing circumstances of the global and local economies that affect industry, workforce and community development. Through developing a framework for high-performing EDOs and identifying key leadership traits, this study makes clear the importance of EDOs becoming highly effective, adaptable and innovative organizations in a constantly changing world. The full report is available here.

Employment Development Index February 2011

Our Employment Development Index is a visual representation of changes in regional employment figures over time. For a Statistics Canada map of the economic regions highlighted in the Employment Development Index, click here.

The Ec Dev 2.0 Digital Tools

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