The economy remains one of the top concerns facing communities of all sizes across Canada. If we use the leaky bucket model to describe a community’s economy, we want to be sure that the amount of water going into your community (through exports, grants, dividends, etc.) is at least equal to, and preferably more than, the amount leaving your community (imports of goods and services, vacations, energy payments, etc.). If the bucket is too leaky, we are in trouble!
While most economic development strategies are based on conventional models of attracting new businesses and growing export economies, there remains an undercapitalized potential to grow innovative local economy models.
A local economy can be defined as one in which businesses and enterprises are locally owned, working control is held within a small geographic area, and imports are substituted with locally-made products and services.
A strong and resilient local economy – referred to as ‘localism’ by the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) – ultimately builds communities that are more healthy and sustainable. There is mounting research that demonstrates the community benefits of a stronger local economy, among them increased self-reliance, social benefits and lower environmental impact. In fact, a stronger local economy creates greater ‘shared value’ in the community: social/community benefits and a smaller environmental footprint, in addition to the economic returns.
There is also significant evidence demonstrating that locally owned businesses contribute more to the local economy than non-locally owned businesses due to higher economic multipliers, which are typically two to four times the income, wealth, jobs and tax payments per dollar of output. The higher multipliers result because local businesses spend more money locally (management, employees, advertising, etc.), and they spend more of their profits locally. Therefore, growing locally owned businesses makes good economic sense!
For most Canadian communities, complete self-sufficiency is unlikely, but there are unrealized opportunities to reduce the size of the hole in the leaky bucket in a manner that complements and supports other economic development efforts, ultimately creating more wealth in the community and for residents.
The Whistler Centre for Sustainability is currently exploring models to support and accelerate local economic development for communities. In partnership with innovators, entrepreneurs and social enterprises in the Sea to Sky Corridor, the Centre has launched LEAN – the Local Economy Action Network. The purpose of LEAN is to create a collaborative network of local enterprises that will foster a stronger local economy in the region. We will innovate and test new ways to support and grow the local economy and local entrepreneurs through mentorship, fun learning opportunities (Michael Shuman, one of North America’s leading local economic development experts was with us in Whistler in February), ‘Angel Dens’, storytelling, creation of new business-to-business support networks, and initiatives to encourage buying and supporting local.
Stay tuned to find out what we’re rolling out, or give us a call.
For more information please contact Cheeying Ho firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about BALLE – bealocalist.org
By Cheeying Ho