Creating the Entrepreneurial Cities of the Future
Cities across Canada are working towards building ecosystems that generate innovation and fuel entrepreneurship. Creating a culture that supports entrepreneurship and business incubation helps venture growth and leads to economic development and job creation.Joseph and Eshun (2009) further suggest that incubators create self-esteem and an entrepreneurial culture for the local and national community.
“I really want to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie of the City of Guelph.
Michael Babad wrote an excellent piece in the Globe and Mail describing how the young mayor of Guelph and his team have been able to turn the City of Guelph into Canada’s next job powerhouse.
The economy of the city is not dependent on one major industry, such as Windsor, rather the city of Guelph has a big focus on life sciences, biotechnology and agriculture-related industries, with a big university presence. Moreover the region supports two major incubation centers, the Guelph-Wellington Business Enterprise Centre and Innovation Guelph.
The city is also in the process of building a 200-acre business park under development, with the first phase already serviced and their official plan projects 45,000 to 50,000 more people by 2031.
Kitchener has experienced a similar revival; a city where downtown was synonymous with fighting, homelessness, and drugs. In the past 5 years it has transformed into the Innovation District (See article Cornell, 2016).
Over 50 startups have setup, creating over 800 new jobs. This has lead to revitalization and new condo buildings going up as well as new restaurants specifically targeting the rapidly growing population of young professionals. This is clearly not the case in Downtown Windsor where it is difficult to find reasonable housing and accommodations for young professionals.
To date Windsor’s strategy has been to chase large manufacturing, sports tourism and gambling. Attracting a large manufacturing plant to Windsor is an absolute pipedream given the cost of doing business in Ontario.
According to U.S. researchers Gary Sands from Wayne State University and Laura Reese from Michigan State University, cities that invest “flashy” short-term tactics such as gambling and sports tourism will continue to struggle economically in the long-run.
There is no better example of where Windsor’s priorities lie than the council decision to turn down the Accelerator for funding for a third time, while also turning down the Windsor International Film Festival and the Downtown Farmer’s Market – in the same breath approving 50,000 USD (roughly $77,000 CAN) sponsorship at the Detroit Grand Prix.
Creating vibrant entrepreneurial cities takes time and more importantly it takes the right people. Findings in a new report from Endeavor Insight (2014) reveal that startup founders require the following four things: talented workers; quality of life; location near a major transportation network; and proximity to consumers and suppliers.
Given our incredible geographic location Windsor fits the bill for all of the above.
Windsor has a great opportunity to become an attractive destination for startup founders and the Accelerator is proof of that with half our companies originating from outside Windsor.
Windsor has the capacity to become an entrepreneurial engine of creation but we need the city to start making strategic investments for the future in the same vain as Guelph and Kitchener.