I was very fortunate to be invited to speak at the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference in Ottawa about a new partnership between the library and Bruce County Economic Development. This partnership came about in response to a call for pilot projects from AMO focused on supporting business development.
In 2015, the Ontario Government and the City of Toronto undertook a joint project, entitled “The Ontario-Toronto Burden Reduction Project”, aiming to reduce the regulation-related barriers of cost and delay facing local businesses and entrepreneurs in that municipality. Among the targets were instances of non-value-added bureaucratic processes, repetitious requirements for similar information, protracted or unpredictable response times, etc. Toronto’s project was conducted through a total of eight pilot projects, with a ninth identified later in the program.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) saw wider value in this joint program, for municipalities across Ontario. The Ministry of Economic Development and Growth (MEDG) agreed and offered to support a similar set of pilot projects under AMO’s direction. AMO engaged a facilitator for the identification of municipalities interested in participating in a similar range of pilot projects.
Bruce County was invited to submit a proposal for a pilot project that would fit with the focus of creating a more supportive economic environment to retain, attract and grow business activity. I submitted a proposal focusing on business information services that would see the library work in partnership with Economic Development staff. I was very pleased that the proposal was accepted and the pilot project was launched January 30, 2017.
Summary of Bruce County Pilot Project
Bruce County Public Library would offer local businesses within Bruce County’s eight lower-tier municipalities a one-stop business information portal and referral service. Library locations throughout the county would provide support to new companies, existing businesses, and emerging small businesses by providing accessible and easy to find information about the county and its economic development and business development services.
Goals of the initiative
To work to advance the county’s goal of moving toward “one-window” access to business development information.
To advance the library’s strategic priority of collaborating with the community and forming new partnerships. Specifically, new partnerships within county departments and the business community.
To advance the Economic Development Strategic priority related to Business Development by fostering, promoting and supporting entrepreneurs and business opportunities.
Geography can limit the information available to those looking for business opportunities in a large region. An office in one part of the county may not meet the needs of a business owner or potential business owner in another part of the county. Working collaboratively with libraries means communities in every corner of Bruce County can access the same business development information.
There are three main components of the project. The project will utilize all 17 branches of the Bruce County Public library to provide the following:
1. Free online access to the Business to Bruce website through library public computers.
2. Printed information on business development in Bruce County provided by economic development staff, along with library resources related to business development.
3. A series of Small Business Seminars in library branches around the county providing information on a variety of business topics.
Impacts of the project were tracked through analysis of web traffic from the library kiosks to the Business to Bruce website, speaker session attendance, and use of business information at branch locations.
My economic development colleague Kara Van Myall and I traveled to Ottawa to co-present our project at a panel session titled “Building Strength: The Stories of Rural and Small Urban Communities. The presentation was well attended and my goal was to demonstrate how libraries are great partners for economic and business development in rural areas. I hope I succeeded!