Economic Development News & Insight


The Higher ED Blog: Best of 2017

Amy Arbuckle / January 3, 2018

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The Higher ED Blog: Best of 2017

As the newly appointed editor of Higher ED, I took a look back to the Best of 2016 post to get an idea for ‘best of’ expectations. Our marvelous former editor, Michelle Madden, quoted John Oliver in her Best of 2016 post where he pronounced 2016 as, “the f-cking worst.” I don’t think 2017 fared much better.  There’s still an unprecedented rise in the world’s refugee population, we lost another Canadian icon, and we added to the small list of maniacs with bad coifs threatening nuclear war – Kim Jung Un needs step up his back-combing game if he wants to regain top spot in 2018.

However, here at the University of Waterloo 2017 was the best (you may add an explicative for emphasis). We had a year filled with breaking records and successful transitions. Our economic development program had an outstanding year. With 350 participants from all 10 provinces and 2 out of the 3 territories, it was our biggest year ever. The quality also rose with 90% of respondents rating the courses in the top 2 categories of excellent or very good – again, our highest ratings ever. Our master’s program was successfully relaunched as the Master of Economic Development and Innovation. 

Higher ED also saw some change in 2017 with its editor changing hands twice, and although I have some big shoes to fill I’m excited to explore what 2018 will bring for Higher ED. Before we look ahead to the new year let’s peruse through Higher ED’s most popular posts from 2017. Here’s our top five from last year:

#5 Building a new tool to educate people on what economic developers actually do

by Michael Pealow (November)

Being in economic development, it can be a challenge when your employer doesn’t understand the role that economic developers play, or what value they bring to their community. It gets even harder given the wide range of work that economic development professionals engage in, from investment attraction, to business retention and expansion, to entrepreneurship support and financing, cluster development, revitalization initiatives, labour force development, and more. And if elected officials don’t understand your job, how much harder would it be for them to recognize the crucial role they themselves play in creating an environment of success, so you can do what you do best?

#4 Understanding the world of planning 

by Heather Hall and Meg Ronson (October)

According to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, land use planning “affects almost every aspect of life in Ontario.” It is the means by which we manage our land and resources. It helps decide where and how development should occur. It focuses on solving the challenges associated with growth and development from managing urban sprawl to maintaining employment lands and protecting the environment and other sensitive areas. And it helps community stakeholders set goals and aspirations about the future that balance social, economic and environmental concerns.

#3 The art of seducing creative talent

by Goreti Cardoso (February)

Talent attraction has become a common objective of cities around the globe. The presence of artists, as well as arts and culture offerings in a region have the potential to support this goal. A vibrant place with cultural amenities, like museums, art galleries, orchestras, festivals and cultural fairs, can serve as a major drawing factor for highly-skilled workers and new businesses, as argued by scholars like Richard Florida. However, there is an ongoing debate about what types of investments in the arts will in fact contribute to attracting creative people to any given region. I have yet to find one simple formula so far.

#2 Succession Planning in 5 Easy Steps for Canada’s Farming Industry

by Alison Earls (March)

Succession planning is a hot topic in rural economic development, and a growing concern for its communities. Canada’s farming sector in particular will face unique hurdles in the coming years. A report by Statistics Canada released sobering figures that hint at the sector’s potential decline: The average age of farmers is increasing, while fewer young farmers are joining the profession. In addition to this, fewer acres of farmland are being used. Ensuring that your region’s farms are preparing for a coming ownership transfer can not only help the farmers and their successors, but also ensure the sustainability of the regional economy.

#1 The birth of the circular economy in Ontario

by Lucas Diaz Molaro (November)

Transitioning to a Circular Economy is harder than it seems, mainly because we have been operating within a linear economy for so long. What this means is that our production cycles are designed so that we ‘take, make, and dispose,’ Meanwhile, a Circular Economy seeks to minimize the disposal portion of an economy, instead of looking for ways that the waste in the industrial process be reduced or even repurposed entirely. Though a truly ‘Circular Economy’ is likely not possible, experts in the field like Mervyn Jones of the UK and my supervisor Steven Young of University of Waterloo acknowledge that we can and should strive for a ‘more curvy line’.


About the author

Amy Arbuckle is the editor of Higher ED. She is also the Outreach Manager for the Economic Development Program and is currently completing her Master of Economic Development & Innovation at the University of Waterloo.  She has a background in research and has consulted on rural community economic development projects ranging from start-up social innovation hubs to downtown improvement studies.


About the series

Higher ED: Insights for the Next Economy is a platform for students, guest speakers, staff and faculty of the University of Waterloo’s professional and graduate economic development programs to share knowledge with the field at large. The series takes works destined for an academic audience and reworks them into a fresh, easy-to-digest blog article.

Established in 1987, the Master of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI) is one of the only graduate programs in Canada focused exclusively on economic development. Students learn economic development theory and practice, and are exposed to leading edge knowledge, tools, and approaches to address contemporary challenges in cities and communities across Canada and internationally.

The Economic Development Program is a nationally-accredited provider of professional training. It delivers certification programs and seminars that offer a deep understanding of the Canadian context in a convenient block format. Peer learning is combined with informative lectures and practical case studies to provide dynamic instruction that is beneficial for junior and senior-level practitioners.

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