Two MBA students at the Richard Ivey School of Business are helping to shape economic development plans for communities in Southwestern Ontario.
Adam Bortolussi and Rohan Belliappa, MBA students at the Richard Ivey School of Business, issued a report to help municipalities in Southwestern Ontario align their economic development strategies.
Rohan Belliappa and Adam Bortolussi, who have on-the-ground experience in economic development and marketing, were part of a research team involving the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management and HBA students that created a report for the Southwest Economic Alliance (SWEA) highlighting regional economic development.
This is an area formally known as “Canada’s manufacturing heartland” but which suffered a downturn with the recent recession.
SWEA is a network of Southwestern Ontario municipalities working to revive the regional economy through leadership and co-operation. It acts as an advocate for common economic goals.
“With manufacturing going away and the economic downturn, the region needed something new to essentially keep the economy ticking, keep the economy running during these difficult times,” says Belliappa.
“What we did was analyze the priorities of municipalities and summarize them into easy, actionable plans.”
The 25 SWEA municipalities in the project include London, Sarnia, Stratford, Guelph, Windsor, Municipality of Chatham-Kent and Huron, Bruce and Elgin counties, among others.
The report will be used in presentations to stakeholders discussing regional economic issues. It was used in a March meeting with local MPPs and a similar presentation was made to local federal government representatives.
It will become a reference for communities looking to attract foreign investment and entrepreneurs, and to promote research and development.
The report examined 19 economic development plans to determine what the region can leverage to create new opportunities.
“The main thing we were trying to get answered was to find out whether there was a common point of view across the entire region about what the key economic sectors were going to be in the next few years,” says Serge Lavoie, president of SWEA.
Economic development requires multiple parties working together, rather than individual municipalities pursuing a plan on their own, he says.
“If we want to make a place for ourselves across Canada when it comes to attracting investment, or across North America or the world, we have to be able to situate each of our towns or cities within the larger region, which is itself a major market.”
Although business students are often told to think globally, Lavoie says the report demonstrates how “we are helping to develop thinking within Ivey on issues that are purely local.
“We are all used to thinking globally, but what we are trying to do is get the next breed of business leaders thinking about local issues in global context.”
By identifying key sectors including advanced manufacturing; green technology; culture, tourism and recreation; logistics and transportation; and agriculture, “everyone would be working collaboratively as a region moving forward in trying to rebuild industry in Southwestern Ontario,” says Bortolussi.
“We realized there were some significant competitive advantages in the region,” says Belliappa, explaining the number of educational institutions and the diversity of economy and industry has protected the region from further economic downturn.
“Manufacturing has taken a hit, but the fallout could have been a lot worse if we were not so diversified.”
Now that the communities have received a copy of the comprehensive report, the next step is to put the resources in place to execute the implementation of projects to create jobs, generate exports and attract new investments, he says.