I was speaking at an Economic Development Conference on the Creative Economy recently and I likened my role and other Economic Developer’s roles as that of an electrician.
Our job is to assess the entrepreneurial energy in our community and be a conduit for that energy by connecting the right “wires” in order to help harness and release the energy to help fuel our economies. Michelangelo said it much more eloquently ” I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
When I arrived in Prince Edward County in 2001 as Economic Development Officer, I observed that we were a Culinary Tourism Destination. There were only two problems we didn’t know it nor did anybody else.
What I mean by that is we had many of the pieces, chefs & restaurateurs, agriculture, artisan farmers, cider, beer, cheese, a ready to emerge wine industry, great places to stay and an incredible rural and bucolic tourism back drop with charming country roads, historic hamlets, towns and villages, a world class beach, incredible scenery and so much more. As a community, we saw the piece parts, especially the individual business owners, but we were not harnessing the potential energy of this powerful and magical gastronomic infrastructure yet as a community.
What I do best is see opportunity in existing and inherent strengths, create partnerships, package and promote. My insight in this instance was enhanced by my love of food and personal pinot noir wine journey that brought me here in the first place. In partnership with our culinary community we put together a series of “products” that highlighted what we had and helped our community and our potential customers understand that we were indeed an exciting and delicious Culinary Tourism Destination.
The benchmark event was TASTE!a celebration of regional cuisine. The idea of this event was to showcase our culinary strengths and diversity of the community as a whole, beyond the piece parts, and under one spectacular roof on one day.
We wanted people to go WOW, I never realized all this great delicious stuff was here. We showcased farmers products, chefs creations, cider, beer, wine (we only had one winery for the first event we will soon have 30!) cheese and more. The event was a smashing success serving over 1100 people in 6 hours via 30 culinary partners getting great press coverage and setting the stage to establish Prince Edward County as the “Gastronomic Capital of Ontario”
Events such as Maple in the County, TASTE! a celebration of regional cuisine and Taste Trail were supported by our industry, created and marketed by economic devleopment partners. They were really marketed heavily by via P.R., third party endorsement and engaging the media through relationship building. Others followed suit such as Terroir, Six Barrels Six Chefs, Countylicous, Vickies Heirloom Hurrah, etc….
Now Prince Edward County is seen as a Provincial Leader in Culinary Tourism from a product development, product marketing perspective as well as from the experience. This is quite remarkable considering less than a decade ago nobody including ourselves really understood this.
All of the above attracted both increased investment and tourism, the economic cycle required for sustained success.
Building a Creative Rural Economy sometimes requires seeing the angle in the marble and carving until it is set free.
Brief Background & Bio
As economic development officer, I pioneered the practice of Creative Rural Economy, Economic Development in Prince Edward County, Ontario for 10 years starting in 2001. Now as the President and CEO of the Greater Peterborough Economic Development Commission and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster my role has expanded to include both urban and rural creative economy work. I have a keen interest in the economics of urban-rural interdependence. I also speak regularly to groups, organizations and conferences in order to help them grow their economies, in Canada and abroad.
Want to Hear More?
I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise to help others on developing Creative Economies – Rural, Small Town & City. To book me for speaking engagements, facilitation, workshops and more click here or email here.