THUNDER BAY – Business – After attending a recent conference at Lakehead University surrounding competition. Yvan Couture, owner of Primal.com and co-founder of Communitech in Waterloo presented how the community has been able to grow, develop, and prosper into a knowledge based economy and ICT hub. Part of being a knowledge based economy includes building on other people’s ideas in a collaborative environment regardless of location. Another part includes competing with the best on a global scale. When asked how he felt when Google acquired a company next door to his business and would be moving in if he felt intimidated, Yvan replied by saying “if we are going to compete with the best, it would be nice to have them next door”.
Rather than protecting his local environment, to grow the community he embraced the challenge and the Waterloo tech community has not looked back, but raised the bar.
The only sustainable competitive advantage is learning and applying faster than your competition.
In a closed loop local economy where everyone promotes buying off of each other we are effectively eliminating outside competition, learning, creativity and solutions to infiltrate our bubble that will impact our ability to expand beyond the borders of Northwestern Ontario. Those who feel so strongly about it, look at your personal life. Are you using Facebook, Google, Twitter, a computer, a mobile phone, TV? These advancements all happened outside of the region and have grown in popularity because they connect us with others remotely and many of us cannot imagine our lives without these facets and if we discard them will reduce our productivity greatly.
Not only should they be embraced but we should be innovative as they create a platform for us to build upon their successes.
With increased penetration of the Internet and crowd sourcing being used to drive better value, certain businesses may feel threatened that their ability to service the local market might suffer as local customers can easily purchase elsewhere. Adversity is a challenge many companies face and must combat to remain competitive in today’s Global economy. We are connected now more than ever, believe it or not, even in Thunder Bay.
Rather than fight with the sole argument of ‘hey buy local – it’s better for you- I need to be protected’, it might cloud your true value or service offering. What about the local start-up business that found an outside vendor providing excellent value that is half the price and able to provide a better service? This company should not be shunned but encouraged as they are making a business decision that allows for further investment in their company to promote themselves on the global stage which will create future knowledge economy positions right here.
Sometimes it does make sense to buy local however and that is when a company is providing a unique product or value added service that you could not get elsewhere or you have a personal connection with the vendor.
It also makes sense when the company you are sourcing from is competitively priced, not the cheapest but at least in the same ball park. Businesses that are pricing themselves out of the market but rely on and push buying local to protect themselves are not doing the community any favours. Having lived in a few different communities within Ontario, Thunder Bay is a very unique place when it comes to local.
People are extremely passionate and the radius of what they consider local is quite small in comparison to other communities. In Southern Ontario, local is anything made in Ontario.
In Toronto, it is anything that is made in Canada. As a primarily public sector economy, perhaps it is expected that we have the Government mindset of protectionism to prevent outside competition. Ultimately for the benefit of Thunder Bay, its citizens, and tourists that come here what would be best is if we all considered the best in the World our local competitor to increase the benchmark. I hope out of this post, I am not saying make an effort not to buy local because people aren’t doing unique things but rather let’s pull up our socks collectively because I know we can serve more than Thunder Bay and attract the World to the place we call home.
By competing with other markets, we will attract a cash infusion into Thunder Bay by earning it to grow the City rather than recycle what Government dollars reside here.
Visit the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre.
The Innovation Centre acts as a pivotal player in growing Northwestern Ontario’s innovation capacity. We offer support to innovative entrepreneurs, businesses, and community projects in the region of Northwestern Ontario. In addition, the Centre seeks out new approaches to improve, enhance and invigorate a commercialization system in our region. By encouraging ongoing cooperation between business, education and government, the Centre is a driving force to improve economic vitality.
Located in Thunder Bay on Lakehead University campus, the Centre prides itself on creating linkages, engaging entrepreneurs, supporting management, training people, accessing markets, developing and implementing businesses plans, sourcing financing and building success!