Entries in economic development (4)


The Culture of Complaint

In February of this year the Huffington Post did a story on Peterborough becoming the second worst place in Canada to find a job.  The result was a predictable outpouring of criticism and blame.

At the time no one was able to explain why we had dropped from 3rd to 27th in one month. As a Chamber, our comment to the media was centred around our skepticism of the numbers. We didn’t go from nearly first to nearly worst in one month....

Huffington Post is not to blame, and neither are the local media outlets who carried the story. They were quoting a BMO Report, which quotes available statistics. Similarly, our unemployment rate has been on a wild roller coaster ride, going from 8.6% in November to 3.2% in April. Does anyone believe those numbers?

BMO is back with this month’s report, and “Alert the Media” we’ve staged a magic recovery, going from 27th to 6th in three months! It’s a miracle! Good work everyone! It’s beer o’clock! (Yes that is sarcasm...)

Here is the point. We’re not that bad, and we’re not that good.

Job creation is everyone’s responsibility:

  • Peterborough Economic Development as the lead agency
  • Multiple agencies and associations, from the Innovation Cluster to the Chamber to the Construction association to the Manufacturers Association, and many more, all working for growth and support of our various members/constituencies.
  • Business owners who juggle multiple challenges in order to hit sales/growth targets
  • Municipal, Provincial and Federal Government who help create the conditions for employment

I could go on for a long time, but this is “Team PTBO” All of us need to be on board, and we need to constantly remind ourselves that being positive and working hard at job creation is an ongoing process.

No matter what this month’s numbers say....



Peterborough Airport (CYPQ): Outlook for Growth 

By: Trent Gervais, CMMIII, EMP, CEO, Loomex Group, Manager, Peterborough Airport

It is estimated that in 2021, Lester B.  Pearson Airport (GTAA) will reach capacity. A year ago Howard Eng, President and CEO, kicked off a regional working group that will define how Regional Airports in Central Ontario can relieve the growing pressures GTAA will be faced with in the future. Eng’s ongoing challenge includes the balance of competing on the World stage to be a top player as an international hub, with meeting the needs of regional travel and cargo business. 

Peterborough Airport (CYPQ) staff have been at the table with other regional airports to identify opportunities for Peterborough.  After engaging with other airports in the region it became very evident that Airports in Central Ontario working together as a “system of airports”, would not only assist the GTAA but would make Central Ontario’s Airports an attractive possibility for aerospace companies looking for a home. 

The group of participating airports includes; Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo, Niagara, Hamilton, GTAA, Oshawa, Kingston, Billy Bishop and Peterborough. Takeaways from the workshop included the decision to:

  • Summarize and share facts about the future of aviation for Southern Ontario
  • Hear from each airport about their aspirations for growth in the next 10 years
  • Identify emerging themes, “quick win” actions, emerging challenges, and approaches to realize opportunities
  • Discuss and align on a set of criteria to evaluate options to handle forecasted long-term growth as a region
  • Agree on next steps 

Included in the discussion has been the need for a ground transportation system that will meet the needs of Airport growth. The 407 extension is a positive for CYPQ, as it helps improve travel time to the GTA area, and also allows doors to open to attract clients from the GTA and Durham areas, to Peterborough. 

Airport leaders are working on how to maximize the potential of working together. Possibilities include joint marketing and identifying the airport capacities, such as available land for development. Airports will also partner to work with various levels of Government on projects such as funding or enhanced Government services to Airports; for example Customs, and CATSA.

It is estimated that 500,000 pilots and over 600,000 aircraft mechanics (AME’s) will retire in the next ten years in North America. Research and Development in Canada is another growing industry. It was reported by the Federal Government that in 2014, R&D contributed $29 billion to the GDP and employed 180,000 people. 

What does all this mean for the future of the Peterborough Airport and the Aerospace sector? 

In 2009, City Council adopted a business plan, which has guided staff on business development. The plan outlined the following areas with high potential:  Education, MRO’s (Maintenance & Overhaul Operators), Research and Development, Aerospace Manufacturing and Engine Overhaul businesses. The overall goal of the Airport is to be an industry leader and economic driver for the region. Major tenants such as the Seneca School of Aviation, Flying Colours, and Kadex not only provide employment but also provide unique services to the Aerospace Sector. 

The Peterborough Airport boasts the longest civil runway between Toronto and Ottawa, competitive serviced land for development, a streamlined construction process, assistance from Peterborough Economic Development, great proximity to Hwy 115 (407), an established aerospace sector in the region, and healthy partnerships with Fleming College and Trent University.  Work/life balance and quality of living are also important factors when companies consider relocating. Peterborough offers great opportunities for employees and their families who choose to locate here. 

The Peterborough Airport has been recognized by its peers for its innovative thinking. Carlson Wagonlit Stewart Travel’s destination charter flights are a great example. Overcoming many obstacles, Stewart Travel is meeting the demands of travellers wanting to fly locally to avoid the drive, higher cost and inconvenience of flying out of Pearson Airport. NextJet’s recent announcement to offer flights to Kitchener, Gatineau (Ottawa) and Montreal will not only help residents of the Peterborough region who travel for leisure or business, but will also be another tool for industry and tourism, to attract visitors to the region.

General Aviation has experienced some substantial growth as well. In the last six years close to thirty private hangars have been built at the Peterborough Airport. General Aviation does not just include small recreation aircraft but also includes twin engine and jet aircraft. 

Over the next few months the Peterborough Airport will continue to work with GTAA and regional airports to determine how it can share in the success of Pearson Airport, as well as how to attract new opportunities to Central Ontario. 

To be successful, the airport will continue on the development path it has been on since the business plan was established. Careful strategic growth that matches industry demand, coupled with strong partnerships, will ensure the success of the Airport. 


Opinion: Stop criticizing Peterborough 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:


  • Airport. We have existing serviced industrial lots, and 15 companies who can serve as an advisory committee for our new PED President & CEO, who brings her significant experience in building out a very similar development at the Oshawa Airport.
  • Trent Research and Innovation Park. Success here will come from multiple sources: existing fledgling companies like Noble Tech, investments from targeted companies attracted by the hub, commercialization of current research at Trent, and activities of the Innovation Cluster.
  • Manufacturing. There are 50-60 local businesses that are already connected to PED through their KMA membership. With leadership like Past Chair Tom Sayer, and Chair Rhonda Barnett, who will be the first female Chair of the Canadian Manufacturers' and Exporters, let’s use KMA like a Manufacturing Advisory Committee to make connections and trigger opportunity.
  • Agriculture. There is an existing focussed and strategic Agriculture Advisory Council. Look at the funding Havelock Metal Products recently received (EODF - $136K = 12 new jobs) and Persian Empire's expansion with $113K in Ontario Rural Economic Development Funding and $100K from EODF. Our MPP is the Minister of Agriculture.... how are we leveraging that?
  • Nuclear. With the recent reinstatement of the Darlington Nuclear refurbishment we need to revitalize the local Nuclear Cluster to capitalize on the opportunity and lobby for fair and balanced procurement for the project to make sure that there is local opportunity. 
  • Tourism. There is strong tourism staff in place with an existing advisory committee, coming off a very successful Travel Media conference last year which generated significant publicity and continues to bear fruit.


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?


  • Mike Skinner, who serves on the PED Board, leads by example, makes connections, and is relentlessly positive about Peterborough. His new company, Rainmaker, could easily be the next tenant at the Trent Research and Innovation Park.
  • Marcelos Sarkis who is triggering a fledgling relationship with Brazil through his connection with the Canada Brazil Chamber of Commerce, and is proposing a Brazil Trade Mission.
  • Paul Bennett, who leads the charge for Startup Ptbo, which has catalyzed the local entrepreneurship culture.
  • Tom Sayer and Rhonda Barnett from the KMA.
  • Tony Smith and Dick Crawford, the local volunteer champions of a refurbished rail line to Toronto. 
  • The Chamber’s Sandra Dueck, who has rapidly become a strong voice for business, getting the attention and respect of local, Provincial and Federal politicians. 
  • Adam Noble, Neil Emery, Suresh Narene, John Knight, and countless others who lead the water, tech and biotech sectors.
  • Rachel Atkinson and Karen Jopling with the Peterborough County Federation of Agriculture.
  • Trent Gervais at the Airport.
  • An engaged PED Board of Directors with a focus on strategy.
  • The entire Boards of CFDC, GPIC, Ptbo County Fed of Agriculture, WBN, WDB, the Chambers of Commerce, the Homebuilders, NCC, the Kawartha Realtors, the Construction Exchange, the Labour Council, and many more.
  • To name a few...


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?


Collaboration is a long term investment for the future 

If I threw out the term “regional collaboration” what would you say?  How would you define the concept?  Could you rhyme off examples of such happenings in and around the Greater Peterborough area? 

My favourite definition comes from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, but I think it has truths that we can apply, in part, to Peterborough:   

There is no single model for regional collaboration, no universal approach that works in all situations. The best efforts are homegrown, tailoring the principles and tools to suit the issue at hand and the unique needs and interests of each region.  http://www.lincolninst.edu/subcenters/regional-collaboration/ 

While that definition gives us the utopian view from 30,000 feet, it is missing a key component.
“Successful regional collaboration needs defined outcomes,” says Ray Dart, Director and Associate Professor of the Business Administration Program at Trent University. “In other words, to see the success of regional collaboration numbers and data need to be presented in relation to the desired outcomes.” 

So if Peterborough, in any capacity, is going to go down the road of regional collaboration, an endgame needs to be established.  In doing so, when the time comes to review or determine the success of the collaboration there is a list of criteria by which to score. 

Let’s apply this idea of an endgame to transit.  The City and County of Peterborough decide to collaborate on a regional transit system.  What are the desired outcomes of this partnership?  Increased transit use thereby decreasing the number of cars on the road?  Allow more people to move from rural locales to urban areas and vice versa?  To make each community in the Greater Peterborough Area more connected through the physical tie of transit?  

Any one of the above questions or several posed together could be the desired outcome.  What this shows us is that to get an answer, many different questions need to be asked.  What is the current use of transit? What is the ridership in the Peterborough area? Is there value in pooling government resources dedicated to transit improvements?  Is there an inherent value in this regional collaboration?  How are expectations managed?

The practice of regional collaboration also applies to how economic development has been approached in Peterborough for the past seventeen years since the GPA 2020: A Vision for Our Future was presented.  In fact, this regional approach to economic development can be seen as the most binding regional collaboration in recent history.  Currently, a scorecard system is in place to record outcomes.  Find more at peterboroughed.ca/about/performance  

A presentation to the 2007 Business and Expansion International Conference referenced work by Harold Baker completed in the early 1990’s on communities in the US, Ireland, France and Spain.  He found:  

  • Multi-community activity appears to be undertaken in order for smaller communities to survive in difficult times and to enhance development opportunities under these circumstances;
  • There is a place in the community for both competition and collaboration, if they are kept in appropriate balance; 
  • Who is invited to the table does not have to be limited to government officials, but should also include private and voluntary groups, and;
  • Patience is a must.

"Regional collaboration is a longer term investment and the benefits are often felt indirectly,” agrees Dart.  “That's why a good view of the desired outcomes is so essential.”

“Collaboration is also about connections,” says Dart.  Through the proposed collaboration how will the group better and more efficiently connect with other groups of people or communities?  Are these connections strategic enough to help the collaborators succeed?  What impact does a smaller connection (two players) have on the broader region? Dart used the example of more integration between Trent University and Fleming College.  “Already we have some integration, but really we’re just scraping the surface of possibilities,” he believes.   If more collaboration were to happen between these post-secondary institutions what would be the benefit to each individually, to the Peterborough region and beyond?

Once desired outcomes are determined, a scale is in place to determine success; the challenge then becomes finding ways to action identified outcomes.  Who will do what project?  Who will commit their resources (people, monetary, etc) to which aspects?  

Regional collaboration has it benefits in that long term there is the potential to be further ahead than where a project would be without collaboration.  However, it’s not an easy road, but one with many challenges.  

I opened a fortune cookie recently, it said “Be patient.  Good things come to those who wait.”  Fair enough and easily applicable to regional collaboration, as long as the waiting is done with purpose and a lot of preparation.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.