Knowledge focus needed to transform Niagaras economy says new Brock policy brief

Niagara needs to develop a “knowledge” economy that would build on the region’s strengths, says a new policy brief from the Niagara Community Observatory.In it’s brief, titled “Moving Niagara Towards a Knowledge Economy,” the Brock University research group says that while Niagara has strengths in agriculture, tourism and as a border community, manufacturing enterprises have been the traditional source of jobs in the area.With the decline of the manufacturing sector, large and small communities in Canada are now positioning themselves to function as “vibrant economic hubs.” Core to these hubs is a knowledge economy, which “places a premium on creativity and creation of new knowledge and innovation as drivers of economic revitalization,” says the brief.Included within innovation would be new inventions in fields such as genetics or biotechnology, reconfiguration of existing goods produced or revolutionizing the way that these goods are produced, including advanced manufacturing.“This environment leads to new products and stimulates new economic activity around the manufacturing of these goods,” says the brief, co-authored by Charles Conteh, associate professor of political science at Brock University and Wendy Dueck, development officer at Niagara College.The brief outlines ways in which smaller cities and regions such as Niagara, that have been hit with the manufacturing downturn, can transform their economies into innovative economies.Needed for this transformation are: a critical mass of skilled people; post-secondary research institutions; innovation centres; commercial and cultural facilities; good infrastructure and civic leadership.“Niagara is in a strong position to leverage its current assets in an army of freshly trained post-secondary graduates, state-of-the-art research facilities, a strategic position as a border region located between Toronto and Buffalo, connected together by a robust network of transportation infrastructure; and an emergent culture of entrepreneurship and knowledge commercialization,” says Conteh.“However, actually mobilizing these assets as pieces of a holistic puzzle is the next step – and this requires strategic leadership and collaborative governance,” he says.As a companion to the brief, the Niagara Community Observatory partnered with the Niagara Workforce Planning Board to release a second paper, titled “Niagara’s Changing Economic Structure,” which contains statistics documenting trends in the region’s economy over the past five years.Highlights include:Niagara has lost 21.2 per cent of its manufacturing jobs in the past 10 years while Canada has lost 25.5 per cent and Ontario 32.3 per centduring this same time frame, Niagara has seen a steady gain in jobs in construction and the service sector such as health care, social assistance, food services and accommodation; and public administrationNiagara has also seen a steady decline in employers of more than 200 people since the recession. Meanwhile, owner-operated businesses and micro-businesses have been growing. In 2013, for the first time, the number of owner-operated businesses in Niagara was greater than the sum of all other-sized businessesBoth briefs will be distributed at this Friday’s Niagara Economic Summit, but can be viewed below:NCO Brief: Moving Niagara Towards a Knowledge EconomyNCO Brief: Economic Structure