What to do with 1,878 Irish immigrants from Cork? Peterborough’s Creative Economy

Peterborough, Ontario, nestled in the Kawarthas tourism region, is a cottage gateway known for its arts and heritage scene. This distinct, almost bohemian, culture is of special interest contrasted against Peterborough’s surrounding, more conservative counties. In a recent paper written by Mike Kalisz and Jordan Berger for Professor Tom Phillips at Trent University, Peterborough is examined through the creative class framework, and identified as a potential creative hub.

Peterborough is home to an impressive array of arts and entertainment organizations, from its 40-year-old symphony orchestra to emerging local bands. Also notable is a visible queer culture, perhaps supported by campus cultures, exemplified in Peterborough’s annual Pride Week and Parade. Peterborough is further distinguished in its media market, with 8 radio stations based in the city, surpassing that of many larger municipalities closer to Toronto. The selection of seasonal and annual festivals combined with bars, clothing shops, and live music venues that line the streets create a vibrant atmosphere that is unique and impressive for a small-sized city in Ontario.

Exhibit 1: Peterborough

All this takes place in the city’s very walk-able downtown, where heritage buildings from the late 1800’s are being used in creative ways. Renovation and rejuvenation continue to open up new, trendy entertainment spaces. The city recently spent a bold fortune on Millennium Place and waterfront trails to encourage further private investment downtown. Rich in culture, the area is host to museums, indoor and outdoor exhibitions, galleries, and theatres. In the warmer summer months, the city is especially bustling with seasonal influxes of cottage populations.

The presence of Trent University, a liberal arts institution with a unique selection of graduate programs, also adds to Peterborough’s creative portfolio. Among offering post-graduate programs in areas such as Cultural Studies, Sustainability, Environmental and Life Sciences, Trent is recognized as implementing a ‘green’ and sustainable approach in education. Combined with its international student population, these assets help Peterborough develop an organic, creative urban identity rarely found in smaller cities.

These characteristics help Peterborough stand out among smaller-sized Ontario municipalities in attracting the creative population. Equipped with a mature transportation network, available industrial and office space, and institutions such as the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster and Peterborough Region angel Network, which provides support and funding for commercialization in the area, Peterborough is endowed with the resources and soft infrastructure to readily welcome creative class and high-technology growth.

The report further discusses the need to speed the flow of people, products, and ideas and the need for the Peterborough region to integrate into the wider mega-region. It points out the challenges the region faces in reaching these and other goals needed to be a success in today’s creative economy.

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The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors—location, place and city-regions—in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.