Thoughts from the Niagara Economic Summit

Yesterday more than 400 people from across the Niagara Region attended the Niagara Economic Summit. The summit’s stated objective was to bring people together to focus on developing a blueprint to build a stronger economy in Niagara.

Though Niagara-based, the summit’s dialogue would have been instructive for almost all Canadian centres facing the challenges of a transforming economy, of globalization, and carrying the yoke of cumbersome, pervasive local government. 

Here are a few memorable thoughts from the meeting’s proceedings:

  • Dr. Jack Livingstone, President of Brock University, quoted our Governor General David Johnston: “Think Big. Start Small. Scale Up.” (This quote is properly attributed to Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-mart.)
  • They’ll be no home-runs. We’ll succeed with a whole bunch of singles and doubles; base-by-base. (There was a litany of sports analogies!)
  • Paul Knafeic, of Community Benchmarks, reported Niagara’s population base is “very dynamic.” In four years, we’ve had 39,000 people leave the area and 42,000 people move into Niagara.
  • Knafeic also reported that the Niagara Region is creating jobs. Though the Region has lost large-scale manufacturing jobs and some prominent companies have moved, Niagara has still experienced a net increase of almost 3% job growth. 
  • Government does not generate wealth, nor can it grow the economy; it’s role is to provide a favourable regulatory framework for economic growth.
  • Here’s a recurring question, “How do we begin to address the problem of accountability from our local business leaders and our politicians?”
  • General Rick Hillier motivational and inspirational comments on what it takes to be a leader cut to the core: 1) robustness/toughness, 2) optimism, 3) ruthlessness – and a great sense of humour to keep everything in perspective and to relieve your inner tensions.
  • General Hillier also forwarded: “A big part of a leader’s job is to inspire people and to draw inspiration from them.” / “Actions talk. Your values, words and actions must all line up.” / “Avoid the trappings of the Office and the Title. Be yourself.” / “We all have the potential to be a leader.”

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