Policy Forum 2014: Creating a cohesive culture of entrepreneurial success

How to channel the energy of a group of people dedicated to their community is the challenge we face in Peterborough.  There is no doubt of the existing enthusiasm and passion for Peterborough.  A recent forum held by the Young Professionals Group (YPG) of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce with 45 business and community leaders proved that fact.  The group drew the conclusion that the main goal of forums such as this is to bring some or many of the ideas to fruition.  

The forum, held at the Holiday Inn Peterborough Waterfront, was based on a Don Tapscott article published in the Toronto Star on Friday, October 17, 2014.  In the article Tapscott, who is also the Chancellor of Trent University, a best-selling author and considered one of the leading thought leaders in the World, identified seven key areas to improve the functionality of a municipality.  Those areas are: 

  1. Promoting Entrepreneurship to Achieve Prosperity 
  2. Open Government
  3. Turning Public Safety Inside Out
  4. Rethinking Transportation 
  5. Creating a Sustainable City
  6. Transforming Social Services
  7. Reinventing Local Democracy

Each table at the YPG Policy Forum consisted of six or seven people including a table lead to guide discussion. Each table wrote down their ideas and then presented them to the entire room. There was also opportunity for some overall comments before closing for the evening.  Over the next several weeks we’ll detail those discussions for you, identify what is currently happening in those seven areas and opportunities for action.  

This is a fluid political time in Peterborough’s history with a new term of city and county council getting underway, a recent provincial election that saw the province move from a minority government to a majority government, and a general election slated for next year that will see the number of ridings increase across the country, including several new ones for the Peterborough area.  

From an economic standpoint, this is a geographical area evolving from more than a century of large manufacturing to a community that has a more diverse economic base with a more advanced manufacturing core.  As a community, we are also working to decipher employment patterns that have emerged showing a 6% swing in unemployment rates from spring to fall each year.  While one can rightly question the accuracy
of the numbers, Chamber community partner, Peterborough Economic Development (PED) has identified through their strategic planning process that one possible way to temper the unemployment rate swing is to focus and foster a culture of entrepreneurship.  It makes sense, as the entrepreneurial spirit is the backbone of Peterborough and all the other communities in Ontario.  It is the backbone of the Chamber of Commerce, which gives those entrepreneurs a voice to government and their communities.  Economists across the country, including those at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, have identified that the majority of job creation in the next five years is going to happen through companies with five employees or less.  

With an eye on entrepreneurship, here is what came of the roundtable discussion with table lead, local entrepreneur and PED Board Member Michael Skinner.  

Four trends surfaced during this discussion:

  1. Attitude
  2. Collaboration
  3. Youth 
  4. Servicing Entrepreneurs


The community must realize that the chance of a large company descending on Peterborough with hundreds of jobs waiting to be filled is not likely to happen. From this realization, the attitude of the entire area can then focus on entrepreneurship. The group also identified a need for a more positive attitude to partnering with other groups to breakdown silos, and the willingness to change and adapt to the times. Ultimately, the group reiterated the call that fostering entrepreneurship can lead to solutions for economic challenges.


The group revealed that next week there will be a youth entrepreneurship funding announcement for Trent & Fleming.  The Cube at the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster (GPIC) is connecting resources at Trent, within the community through the Peterborough Region Angel Network (PRAN) and established businesses and budding entrepreneurs.  The group identified the need for better connection between MPs and MPPs and business, and between agencies with any ties to the entrepreneurial world. 

To that point, the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is currently starting the planning process for a Business Summit in 2015 with a focus on the entrepreneur.  


From their notes the group has identified this demographic as a resource to be tapped.  Not only will there be the funding announcement mentioned above, but through a dedicated effort to encouraging entrepreneurship there is opportunity to have Trent and Fleming students choose Peterborough to start their business instead of taking their education and leaving the area.  There is more opportunity for mentoring, more opportunity for groups such as Junior Achievement (JA) to reach into high schools and infuse students of all ages with the entrepreneurial bug.  Trent University has also included youth entrepreneurship as a pillar of its strategic plan.  With Fleming College and Trent University both looking to attract international students, the Conference Board of Canada study that shows Peterborough has the highest number of immigrant entrepreneurs in the county is a valuable resource to use as a draw to schools and the Peterborough area. 

Servicing Entrepreneurs:

To create this culture of entrepreneurship the table discussion zeroed in on the importance of centralizing all information related to the sector.  They agree it could be a virtual space, a physical space, a combination or both.  They would like to see a centralized calendar for networking and mentoring events as they believe networking and mentoring are “essential to the entrepreneurial formula.” Centralization of the many planning documents that would affect a person looking to start a business was also on the minds of the group. The current host of plans is available on the City of Peterborough website at the following address: The group would also like to see more encouragement of entrepreneurs in all areas of Peterborough, from downtown to the Lansdowne and Chemong business corridors. They identified the Bears' Lair competition as a program that is currently highlighting new and budding entrepreneurs.  The Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) was also identified as a resource for entrepreneurs to tap into. 

Interestingly enough, the end vision on entrepreneurship has deep roots in what is currently happening in the Peterborough area. We are seeing collaboration between many of the groups mentioned (the Chamber, Trent, Fleming, PED, GPIC, Junior Achievement, CFDC), however, the time is right for a more coordinated and defined strategy - a strategy that presents a united front, reinforcing the commitment to entrepreneurship success.   

Next week: Open Government and Reinventing Local Democracy.  

Comment through the “Peterborough Chamber” group of LinkedIn. 

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