Tag Archives: local

Tourism and niche food – a powerful intersection to build on

After a full day travelling I arrived on the island of Bornholm and cranked into another packed day of meetings all over the island and yet again more productive discussions and outstanding people.  Bornholm and Taupo share a lot of similarities, including population sizes and dominant industries.  Bornholm is the same size as Lake Taupo.

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Destination Bornholm and the Business Center Bornholm

First cab off the rank was tourism with Peter and economic development with Jørn.  Bornholm has encouraged people to purchase vacation homes out of the main centres, perhaps a solution for the Auckland housing “crisis”.  Bornholm is trying to extend stay to shoulder season and leverage off the growing outdoor tourism market.  There’s one main visitor centre open all year round with others only seasonally.  Economically there is a big focus on proactively working with existing businesses and providing a one stop shop.

There were both differences and similarities to NZ and the topic of collaboration surfaced consistently.  How easy is collaboration in tourism compared to other industries?   Do more accommodation or activities grow or hinder industry?  Does necessity drive people together or apart?

Bornholms Middelaldercenter

Next stop was Niller from the medieval centre and a great example of what happens when you mix passion with authenticity.  The centre blends historical and cultural tourism delivered in way where all ages can actively engage.

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Gaarden

Then onto meet Mikkel at a food and culture house.  The food industry here is a outstanding showcase of adding value to primary product having developed from almost nothing 15 years ago to the place to be in Denmark for niche food.  Gaarden is a great intersection of regional food and historical heritage and an example of very collaborative industry in action where activities are as close to producers as possible…aka localism.  Like Oregon, there’s a lot of potential for transfer to NZ, and one that the Food Innovation Network is tapping into but I believe has considerably more scope in rural locations, especially to get away from price-taking commodity trading.  Here’s one bit of the Gaarden store selling local products, not bad for an island 588km²!

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Go Bornholm and East Winds

Finally I spent time with Jonas, a local entrepreneur who simply gets on and does stuff.  In addition to the East Wind activity business he has recently launched Go Bornholm, and online booking plaftorm, I lost count of how many bookings flowed through during our discussion…the digital age is now the norm.  If destinations don’t offer bookings direct from their website, where is the call to action?  It’s like not being able to book a room on a hotels website.

So what?

Whilst tourism is “lower value” as pointed out by Sir Paul Callaghan, it’s still the starting point for many communities rather than simply trying to parachute into something new.  Combining tourism with adding value to primary produce, locations can move up the value chain, and then overlay technology to step up again – it just takes market focus, capital, time, persistence…

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Change from the bottom up in the Capitol

Last day in Washington today and everything was going smoothly until the bus that was due every 10 minutes took 30 minutes and then my suitcase ‘Big Red’ self destructed before some number 8 wire innovation nursed it through the last few hours of it’s life.  That takes my total of losses to three – camera, plug adapter and now suitcase.  It could be worse – here’s a view from the Lincoln Memorial looking towards the Washington Monument.

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Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED)

First up was Harold and Lauren, who are part of yet another organisation that makes up the ecosystem that is economic development in the US.  CFED is a national non-profit that acts as an intermediary, enabling other organisations to achieve outcomes.  CFED’s work is focused on creating economic opportunity that alleviates poverty – be it through developing a business or saving for higher education or home ownership. Check out some of their great programs.

What was particularly interesting was their focus at an individual and household rather than location or community wide.  They also have a strong focus on data, see their Scorecard tool.

US Economic Development Administration (EDA)

Next was the EDA hosted by Elizabeth and the team.  The EDA is the only federal government (like central government in NZ) focused exclusively on economic development.  They seem to have transitioned from a ‘leveraging investment’ model to one that develops resilience and encourages diversification in economies.

Some of the highlights of their operations:

Common theme – ‘Bottom up’

Both these organisations operate nationally and are very different in nature – government and non-profit.  However they both display a common behaviour – enabling change from the ‘bottom up’.  This leads us back again to localism….  How common is  the ‘bottom up’ development approach where you live?

Champion the entrepreneurial spirit

Edward Lowe Foundation

Onwards into Michigan to met with the Edward Lowe Foundation and some more incredible hospitality from Dino and the team at the 2,600-acre Big Rock Valley.  The Foundation was established by Ed and Darlene Lowe in 1985 to “champion the entrepreneurial spirit”, after having started and scaled Edward Lowe Industries which invented cat litter.

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Here’s one of the many historic houses on the property.

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The foundation supports the following programs:

All of the above are great tools to utilise depending on what is happening for businesses or locations.  A couple of favourites if I had to pick…

Economic gardening

Economic gardening is “grow from within” strategy targeting existing growth companies and offering them critical strategic information that is customized to their needs.  It was started by Chris Gibbons in Littleton, Colorado who is now the CEO for the National Center for Economic Gardening.  It has achieved some impressive results:

  • “During the 20-year period Littleton practiced Economic Gardening, jobs grew from 15,000 to 30,000, and sales tax revenue more than tripled from $6M to $21M without any recruiting, incentives or tax rebates”.
  • More recently in Utah, 12 companies achieved $16m in sales increases and the creation of 122 jobs, or in Kansas with 28 companies growing both employment and revenue approximately 30% on average.

Data – YourEconomy.org

YourEconomy.org is a very smart tool that gives an overall view of sales, job and business creation.  It drills down to all layers including down to State and most importantly locally.  Pick your favourite location and have a try.

In summary, a couple of insights emerge:

  • Business retention is growth is an often ignored poorer cousin to the more high profile attraction initiatives such as tax incentives.  What a difference can be made in any context by starting with what you’ve got and asking how do you grow?
  • While the Kauffman Foundation (new and young companies) and Edward Lowe Foundation (second-stage entrepreneurs) have slightly different definitions on what companies create the most jobs, they are saying the same thing – entrepreneurs and young companies create the most jobs.
  • Like most places I’ve met the Foundation partners and collaborates with other organisations to achieve their end goal and they have great systems.
  • Data when powered by smart technology showing local information is critical to give context of what is happening in economies.
  • Finally, how do locations educate, retain and attract talent so they create and scale businesses that operate globally?