Young: Examining the anatomy of an entrepreneurial region
As readers of this column will know, every other week, when I take a brief sidestep from entrepreneurial story-telling , I explore the world of information and educational research of entrepreneurship development.
Lately, I have been experiencing both a renewed and enhanced enthusiasm toward the concept of a regional entrepreneurial culture.
So, how can we seek to foster a regional entrepreneurship strategy in our rural communities of the Okanagan as a strategy for generating industrial and economic development?
It seems to me that we ought to begin with a discussion of the general state of our region from a socio-economic perspective and why it may be truly in need of economic development help.
We might argue that any viable solution must indeed be regional in scope given the diversity of our communities from Salmon Arm to Osoyoos and beyond and that entrepreneurial development is the most logical and viable economic development strategy channel.
We might also want to address limitations of current approaches to fostering entrepreneurship.
With the downturn in the economy, which many feel has not bottomed as of yet, rural communities often have limited business financing resources. Debt capital is difficult to acquire.
There seems to be insufficient opportunities for lenders to shift risks and sources of equity capital (angel and venture capital) are limited or non-existent in many of our rural communities as well.
Additionally, rural business often are forced to seek markets outside their immediate communities and even the Okanagan as a whole because local markets are too small to sustain current operations, muchless growth.
Also, physical distance from relatively rich urban areas creates hardships, not the least of which is impeded access
to the information and knowledge centers of our new highlighted global economy.
Another challenge which is highlighted to me frequently is the appearance of dominance by a single business or industry in the various corners of our regional landscape.
Not only does this preclude economic diversity and make the particular community highly vulnerable to economic shifts, but it also acts as a damper on innovation.
Hence, most rural regions have limited economic critical mass, unlike their urban counterparts.
For this reason, there is little margin for error.
These limitations demand that policy solutions for rural regional economic revitalization be regional in scope.
Let’s take a look at how we might build this “anatomy of an entrepreneurial region”
It has been said that economic development policy is compared to a three-legged stool.
The three major strategies being:
• business attraction
• retention and expansion
• business creation.
For many years, attraction was the clear favourite of economic developers across Canada.
Recently, economic developers have become more concerned about retaining their current business and attempting to induce such businesses to modify and expand their operations as a logical and viable alternative.
Now, with these difficult economic realities before us, we are seemingly left with the third leg of the stool—business creation—as the only viable economic development tool before us in our rural regions of this province.
This important factor has led me, and many of my professional, educational, business and organizational associates, to a conclusion that, maybe, just maybe, it is the right time to put our dedicated time and resources into developing a highly co-ordinated regional economic development strategy based on the supportive environment for entrepreneurial creation.
Let’s be clear, entrepreneurship assistance through the development of a regional entrepreneurial strategy is not to be construed as merely a fallback economic development strategy for the rural Okanagan region.
As it lends itself particularly well to rural regional economies because it is sustainable.
It can truly be less costly than other economic development strategies.
It yields smaller scale development which is often more appropriate to rural regions as the Okanagan.
Additionally, it spawns home-grown companies which tend to be more loyal to our communities than branch facilities.
The challenges are many and varied and there is sufficient evidence when researching this topic throughout Canada and the U.S. as I have had the privilege of conducting for many years.
There is evidence that the most promising approaches to addressing such challenges are indeed regional in scope and systemic in nature.
Also promising, is a regional strategy that “truly fosters entrepreneurship” for reasons I have already noted briefly for you.
This does suggest that the creation of entrepreneurial regions in our “best place on earth” should be the goal.
In recent years, there has been a lot written and said about what makes an entrepreneurial region.
Some have argued ( myself included) that it is a diversity of people, ideas and activities.
Others point to an environment that nurtures and develops human capital.
Still others claim wisely that it is a combination of intellectual capital and numerous other factors that underlie a successful entrepreneurial region.
There is undoubtedly much truth in all of these healthy observations and what we need to need is seek “ building the cake” assembling the minds and, definitely, the hearts of our capable and dedicated men and women of the Okanagan region to help make the entrepreneurial dream become our reality.
Building our “team of champions of entrepreneurial success will take some time but there is no doubt the human assets we have amongst us will help.
With the joyous time of Christmas upon us, perhaps we might approach 2014 with a renewed rigour and commitment to behave and think entrepreneurially and seek to assemble our anatomy of the Okanagan entrepreneurial region together