Benchmarking the Creative Economy in Rural Ontario

In the emerging economy of the 21st century, rural communities and peripheral regions across Ontario face significant challenges in encouraging continued economic growth and regional prosperity. With the ongoing reduction in the relative importance of manufacturing, and the restructuring of the agricultural industry, many rural communities have turned to tourism as a way to promote job creation and respond to declining social and economic conditions. The challenges rural communities face have only become further augmented by the ever expanding emphasis on knowledge-based industries and on larger metropolitan centres in the emerging service-driven economy. Indeed, communities and cities across Ontario are increasingly seeking new and innovative ways to bolster and strengthen their economies in the Creative Age. Although some communities have experienced success in using tourism to promote prosperity, they are seldom able to regain the same level of success, economic diversity and self-sustaining momentum they once experienced.

However, opportunities exist for rural communities to regain momentum and stimulate their regional economies by pursuing their own distinct strategies in the emerging Creative Economy. Previous research has indicated that rural communities possess many of the place-based qualities and characteristics that are shown to attract and retain members of the Creative Class. Yet, many communities are not aware that these opportunities exist within their region. Understanding the nature and potential of the Creative Economy in their jurisdiction is an important step forward for rural communities in recognizing alternative opportunities to promote prosperity.

The growing recognition of the success of creative-based economic development strategies in rural communities is the driving force behind the rationale, and need, for this report. As an increasing number of communities continue to seek out, adopt, and replicate creative-based economic development strategies; eager to enjoy the success experienced as a result of such strategies in other rural communities, further research is needed. At this moment, there exists a small body of research that explores and provides insight into the nature and implications of the Creative Economy in a rural setting. However, this research does not provide detailed accounts of the methods and analysis used in Creative Economy research. This has serious implications for how the Creative Economy is interpreted by rural communities seeking to both understand and incorporate it into their economic development strategies. While this project will not provide specific policy recommendations for rural communities, it will provide a better understanding of the way in which to interpret the Creative Economy in a rural setting, and how it can be approached from a practical perspective.

This report examines the Creative Economy in rural communities across Ontario, providing a vital tool for any community seeking to better understand how to develop and execute Creative Economy research, and begin to interpret results. Through this endeavour, the existing body of research on the Creative Economy in rural communities has been expanded, as we further seek to assist in the transfer of that knowledge in an accessible format to reach and inform communities interested in applying the concepts themselves.

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