Opinion: Stop criticizing Peterborough Economic Development
Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 08:34AM
PtboChamber in Municipal, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, economic development

By Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce

Peterborough Economic Development (PED) announced the hiring of its new President and CEO last week, and before the ink was even dry on the contract the organization was under fire from the usual suspects. 

I was at a conference of fellow Chamber Managers from across Ontario last week, and in a conversation with a Chamber Manager from Central Ontario who was leading the call for the establishment of an arms-length economic development organization in his City and County. The reaction from his Municipality - “Why would we want to do that? Just read the news and you can see what a disaster Peterborough has become...” 

Is this the reputation we want for our City? If not then perhaps we need to be a bit more circumspect in our criticism and a lot more aggressive in our support. 

The PED Hiring Committee and Board of Directors needs to be congratulated on the hiring of Rhonda Keenan. Her resume is rock solid, with 12 years of direct experience in Economic Development with the City of Oshawa. 

PED needs champions. Everyone in the local business ecosystem can play a role, and we all need to understand the very definition of Local Economic Development (LED). From the Federation of Canadian Municipalities:

“LED is multi-faceted and collaborative, leveraging inherent community and regional strengths to gain a competitive advantage. LED does not have one leader, but rather the engagement of an array of community-minded individuals, business and political leaders, and key stakeholder organizations to drive the LED process.” 

Our local business ecosystem includes; City and County Councils, Trent and Fleming, the Innovation
Cluster, the airport, Community Futures (CFDC), the Peterborough, Millbrook, Havelock, and Lakefield Chambers of Commerce, StartUp Ptbo, Kawartha Manufacturers' Assocation (KMA), DBIA, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers and the Federation of Agriculture, the New Canadians Centre (NCC), the Peterborough Immigrant Partnership, Sustainable Peterborough, the Workforce Development Board (WDB) and one of the key recommendations to likely come out of our MP’s recent Jobs Summit, a Peterborough Advisory Council on Jobs.

Everyone needs to be on board and supportive. #TeamPtbo, if you will...

It needs to be said that the majority of City and County Councillors are supportive. And since they pony up $1.6 million per year in funding, they have every right to expect accountability from an organization that receives a big chunk of their budget. To me that accountability is built into the very structure of the organization, namely the PED Board of Directors, which includes the CAO’s of both the City and County. Other than an annual report and budget request from PED, we need to question why we are providing a quarterly opportunity for criticism. PED can quote stats until they are blue in the face, e.g. "in 2014 - 77 startups, relocations or expansions, 658 jobs, over $1million in Tourism Economic Impact, over $44 million in GDP economic impact....” and someone is still going to find fault... and our “disaster” reputation will continue. We need everyone to understand that public criticism of PED is damaging to the brand of the entire region.

The PED 5 Year Strategic Plan has two key areas of focus:


  1. Advancing Prosperity
  2. Creating a Culture of Startups and Entrepreneurship


Overall the strategy is focussed on local investment and retention while continuing to pursue potential attraction opportunities, witnessed by the recently announced new manufacturer in Major Bennett Industrial Park and Noble Tech Inc.’s exciting new $20M clean tech algae plant at the new Trent Research and Innovation Park.

I see specific opportunities:



A Culture of Startups and Entrepreneurship already exists, and the creation of StartUp Ptbo has given PED the leadership role. There is talk of a potential Business Hub in the downtown core - a central place where you can go for everything business. This is common in many other communities in Ontario. If it comes to fruition, PED and the Business Advisory Centre need to be the first thing you see when you walk through the front door.

So who are Peterborough’s Champions?



To repeat, “LED does not have one leader, but rather the engagement of an array of community-minded individuals, business and political leaders.”

Are you a Champion?

Article originally appeared on ConnectingPtbo - (http://connectingptbo.ca/).
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