October 29, 2012 By Robert Bell
Guest Blog By Ben Champoux, former Business Development Specialist for the City of Moncton, now leading the Department of Tourism & Culture
Thanksgiving Day in Canada is always the perfect time for me to reflect on how blessed and grateful I am to live in the great City of Moncton on the East Coast of Canada. I must say that I’m not from Moncton. In 1998, my friends laughed when I told them I was leaving Montreal to move to Moncton. So why Moncton? Simply put, because of its ‘can-do attitude’.
I never get bored of telling the ‘Moncton Story’. In less than 25 years, Moncton transformed itself from a blue-collar manufacturing town with an uncertain future to one of the fastest growing cities and most diversified economies in Canada. Back in the ‘80s, the closing of the major employer, CN Shops, was devastating to the local economy. Unemployment skyrocketed to record highs and every second building in the downtown was boarded up. Today, employment is strong, construction activity is having banner years, and Moncton is the fifth fastest growing centre in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.
So how did Moncton do it? Not a simple answer, but there is no doubt that a solid collaboration between all stakeholders and a well-planned marketing strategy were two key ingredients to a successful recipe. I was not living in Moncton in the ‘80s, so I always wondered how the community leaders at the time successfully marketed a city with record high unemployment levels, a 50% vacancy rate in its downtown and a workforce that did not have the perfect skillsets to embrace the growing digital economy. But they did it. They worked together, took their destiny into their own hands and implemented the changes that had to happen in order to get back on track and embrace the digital economy. That’s what I mean about a ‘can-do attitude’.
Promoting Moncton today is much easier, as the community leaders simply focus on concrete actions and leave it to others to tell the world how great is Moncton. In 2009, the ICF named Moncton one of its Top7 Intelligent Communities, which set us on the path to gaining the global recognition we might never have dared seek before. Since then, many others have acknowledged Moncton’s ’can-do attitude’.
The Google eTown Award is the latest in a long list of honours the City of Moncton has received over the past few years. Last Wednesday, representatives from Google Canada were at City Hall to present Moncton with its Google eTown Award. This award is designed to recognize those cities where small businesses are investing in online tools and resources to find new customers, grow their business, and improve their operations. Google looked at hundreds of cities and towns across Canada to identify one in each of five regions that demonstrated strong engagement and potential for growth in the digital economy. Some of the criteria were local businesses utilization of some of Google’s business products including, Google AdWords, the Canada Get Your Business Online initiative, and products such as Google Apps for Business. This is another award that clearly demonstrates Moncton’s ‘can-do attitude’. I could not be more grateful and proud of the City that I now call home.
About the Intelligent Community Forum
The Intelligent Community Forum is a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community. Whether in industrialized or developing nations, communities are challenged to create prosperity, stability and cultural meaning in a world where jobs, investment and knowledge increasingly depend on advances in communications. For the 21st Century community, connectivity is a double-edge sword: threatening established ways of life on the one hand, and offering powerful new tools to build prosperous, inclusive and sustainable economies on the other. ICF seeks to share the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities in adapting to the demands of the Broadband Economy, in order to help communities everywhere find sustainable renewal and growth. More information can be found at www.intelligentcommunity.org.
Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, where he heads its research and content development activities. He is the author of ICF's pioneering study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community, the annual Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year white papers and other research reports issued by the Forum, and of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century. Mr. Bell has also authored articles in The Municipal Journal of Telecommunications Policy, IEDC Journal, Telecommunications, Asia-Pacific Satellite and Asian Communications; and has appeared in segments of ABC World News and The Discovery Channel. A frequent keynote speaker and moderator at municipal and telecom industry events, he has also led economic development missions and study tours to cities in Asia and the US.
ICF co-founder John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary. Formerly President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and Calgary Economic Development Authority, he is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer and economic developer. He leads regular international business missions to US, European, Asian, Indian and Australian cities, and originated the ICF Immersion Lab program. John is a regular speaker at universities and conferences and serves as an advisor to regional and national leaders on Intelligent Community development. The author of numerous articles in planning and economic development journals, he has received global and Toronto-based awards for his work in collaboration and strategic development and sits on numerous task forces and international advisory boards.
ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla is the creator and presenter of the annual Smart21, Top Seven and Intelligent Community Awards and oversees ICF's media communications and development programs. He is a frequent keynote and motivational speaker and panelist, addressing audiences of tech, academic and community leaders around the world, and writes extensively for publications including American City & County, Continental Airline's in-flight magazine and Municipal World. His frequent appearances in the electronic media have included both television and radio in South Korea, China and Canada. He has served as an adjunct professor at Fordham University in New York and is a Guest Lecturer at Polytechnic University's Distinguished Speaker Series. He holds a Masters Degree from the University of Notre Dame.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.