As a small and mid-sized town economic developer in-the-know, you recognize a prime source of new investment and residents are members of the “Diverse” communities. Over the last few years, we have seen a movement of people of every stripe from the big centres outwards to the exurbs. More recently, small and rural communities even further out are attracting attention. Of particular interest are the opportunities arising from the potential arrival of Black, Indigenous, and People-of-Colour (BIPOC) investments and new residents.
Getting into the game is complicated by the term “BIPOC”. The term hides the myriad differences between the Black, Indigenous, and many many others that are captured in the “People-of-Colour” shorthand. And to complicate it even more, some PoC sub-groups are so large that there are sub-sub-groups. There are different needs, different resources, different histories and relationships with government and the general population, different influences and influencers, different family dynamics, and different desires. It means there are some numerous considerations when trying to attract, accommodate, welcome, and retain new BIPOC investments and residents.
Your community is in competition for these new BIPOC residents, owner-operated retail and services, and small-scale processing or manufacturing. Unfortunately, it’s typically a zero-sum game. Economic developers are recognizing their traditional one-sized-fits-all efforts constrains them and that a diversity orientation gives them a competitive advantage.
If you are at the starting line on your diversity thinking, your first step should be some basic training in general diversity concepts so that your council, board of directors, staff, and stakeholders have the same vocabulary. Your hope is that along with this new vocabulary, you start to create a safe space for discussing diversity. One thing I can promise you is that the discussions are going to be sometimes dramatic, sometimes painful, sometimes embarrassing, and sometimes ill-informed. Then if you decide that you really want to take diversity on as a core value or guiding principle then you need to be prepared to have this new orientation affect (over time) your operations from governance to branding messages and marketing actions to human resource to program and service provisions to how you evaluate yourself…everything. Another promise…you can either be proactive and be ready for a changing Canada or take your time and react while your competitors eat your lunch!
How about some worthwhile reading to prime your thinking? Click here for a copy of A Place to Call Home: An exploration of how to attract, accommodate, and retain BIPOC investments and residents.
Written by Glen Loo (firstname.lastname@example.org) — Glen is a member of the BIPOC community and has been an economic developer for over 40 years working in government, quasi-government agencies, and the private sector across Canada and overseas.