Quality of life as it relates economic development

Dan Dibbelt
Smoky River Regional
Economic Development

When we think economic development, most of us imagine new business coming to town.
We picture heavy equipment moving dirt and work crews building new buildings. We picture vacant storefronts being replaced with new neon signs and storefront displays. But a lot of other things need to fall in to play before any of this will happen.
When we look around our community and see swimming pools, bowling alleys, ski hills, soccer fields, schools, arenas and a variety of public buildings, we just see them as part of our community, having no greater value than providing us the citizens, quality of life.
Quality of life is however a very key component of economic development. While in most cases they contribute nothing or very little to the municipal tax coffers they are important elements in attracting new businesses and new people to the community.
If you have always lived in the region you likely take these benefits for granted. Your kids learned to swim in the Falher pool, skied at the little Smoky ski hill and bowled at the Giriouxville bowling alley. They attended school in the region, learned to skate at the arenas, played in the parks and studied at the libraries.
But assume you needed to move to a new community and you have two job offers to consider in two different communities. Quality of life amenities can make or break your decision on which location you would pick.
Would you choose a community that didn’t have a pool, or a library, or arenas? Would the quality of the school, the access to kid’s parks or the availability of extra curricular activities not play a role in your decision making process?
Of course they would and of course people looking to relocate to the Smoky region also look at the availability of these amenities when making their decision. It is easy to assume that the quality of the job and how much it pays would play a role. But work usually only takes up about 40 hours per week. People want something to do for the other the other 128 hours.
Likewise, when someone wants to invest in a new business in a new community, there primary concern is will they make money. In order to make money they want to ensure there is community support for their business and their product or service. They also want to ensure that they can either higher enough people locally and if not that they can attract new employees into the community. Those new people want quality of life amenities.
The Smoky River region is lucky to have some great amenities, many that are supported through intermunicipal agreements, making them more viable. The reality is that most of these amenities cost the municipalities more money to run than they make off them. This often causes a lot of discussion around municipal council tables, and rightly so. Municipal elected leaders are responsible to look after the public purse and debate what ratepayers are willing to pay taxes and user fees for.
Not funding many of these amenities would mean their closure and would reduce the quality of life amenities residents presently enjoy, but also reduce that municipality’s ability to attract new business and new employees to the regions businesses.
It is important that ratepayers see the great importance these public facilities play in economic development even if they do not personally use them. Consider them as employment and resident perks. They are their as benefits for you to use, your kids, grandkids, employees and newcomers to the region.

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