THUNDER BAY – From the beginning of this project, the Northwestern Ontario Joint Task Force had identified some clear objectives and guiding principles. They are simple but powerful statements about this region being willing, able and ready to take on a more prominent role in its future.
These guiding principles stand on a foundation of local decision-making; collaborative governance; participation by all leader groups in the region including First Nation, Métis and Aboriginal Organizations; authority to give to decision-makers the tools to implement and influence decisions regarding economic policy and strategy; and ongoing funding to give decision-makers the tools to implement and influence the strategies.
The Think North II Economic Summit of June 13-14 in Thunder Bay brought together some excellent international speakers who shared their insight and best practices regarding regional economic development.
During the workshops and plenary sessions there were many opportunities for the participants to provide input and learn from each other. These sessions, combined with the first phase of regional consultation, have provided a wealth of information that the Joint Task Force and the research team are now sifting through to extract the intelligence necessary to provide analysis and recommendations that will lead to visible results.
A major issue that was expressed repeatedly during the workshops and final plenary presentation at the Summits was a lack of trust in government. Many stated that we could provide the government of the day with the best possible report but the government might be unable or unwilling to act on the recommendations.
Given such challenges within the context of a positive dialogue and insights gained during Summits in Thunder Bay and Sudbury, what would be the best strategy in moving forward?
An old axiom states that you build on strength and work on your weaknesses. This region has been blessed with the pioneering spirit, talent and the leadership that has brought us many successes in the past like the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, the Policy Institute, new industries in biotechnology and life sciences, the Aviation Centre of Excellence and many others that have positioned this region well for the future.
The many organizations represented on the Joint Task Force and the Northern Advisory Council that ultimately will make the recommendations to the government have the vision and the strength to build on successes and work on weaknesses. The research team’s job will be to provide them with the tools necessary to make a compelling case for a Regional Economic Development model that works for us, right here, right now in the North. Speaking with one voice will also be key in this
defining moment in our region’s progression and evolution towards a prosperous new future.
Frank Pullia is the Principal of Pullia Business Consulting and the chief researcher/lead consultant for the Regional Economic Development Planning Zone Project. He can be reached at (807) 767-6579 or via e-mail at email@example.com