Belleville can be a Leader in Rural Canada
Rural Canada is struggling. At the time of confederation 84% of Canada lived in rural areas. Now only 18% do. Our youth particularly are leaving rural Canada for it’s cities, as that is where the opportunities lie. Read ‘Small Town Canada is Dying’ from this week’s MacLeans. However, I believe that we have the opportunity to turn that around. Belleville is the Quintessential Rural town and region, with the most to gain. We know the city’s strengths: Great affordable housing ($335,000 avg), proximity to urban centres (3 hour drive from 12 million people), great healthcare and schools, a great community, and increasingly more to do (The Belleville Sens, new breweries, the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centres and YMCA, wineries, great parks and trails, beaches, golf, fishing, and even axe throwing!).
It Comes Down to Jobs
In order to grow we need to attract and retain, attract newcomers to the region to start and fill jobs, and retain our youth to come back. We need strategies that get our youth in the region prepared for the jobs of the future, to identify job opportunities to attract more skilled labour, and to start to work with closer with entrepreneurs and organizations like QuinteVation to get businesses started and to accelerate industries that are thriving here in Rural Belleville and Bay of Quinte. One of the burgeoning clusters we have identified is software tech. Companies like Clevr and Nesda are growing, and with their proximity to downtown Belleville they have the momentum to help generate an innovation cluster in our city core.
It Comes Down to Youth
Youth strategies need to be developed so that we have what it takes to be a desirable place to come back. I say come back because I believe all of our children should leave and experience the world. They need to have opportunities that allow them to bring skills and experience back to the region, to join their families and plant their own roots. This is what I want with my own children.
One of those strategies will be to look at how we are working with our public schools and with Loyalist College. For example, we have a shortage of skilled trades in the region right now. We should be working closer on strategies that see student integration into the trades as early as grade 9, so that students can gain real experience to obtain jobs in plumbing, framing, drywall, and electrical that pay well over $40,000 a year. Jobs in the future include programmers, coders, farmers, brewers, enviromental entrepreneurs, and advanced manufacturing.
The Canadian Rural Innovation Summit
Belleville, and Bay of Quinte are hosting the first Canadian Rural Innovation Summit on November 19,20. This will be our chance to talk about rural innovation and discuss strategies with entrepreneurs and government in order to plan a prosperous future for our and other rural regions in Canada. You can sign up for tickets and learn more about this great summit here: http://ruralinnovation.ca