I’ve been musing lately about demographics and economic development.
One of the problems for smaller communities is maintaining some sense of balance. How to support an elderly population while at the same time building a growing economy poses significant problems. The fact remains, however, that without the ability to attract young people to the area, the only growth we’ll see will be in the assisted devices and funeral businesses.
It would be helpful to have a secondary school system less like a prison. Yay for the parent who encouraged the bandana caper and boo to the predictable response on the part of the school administration.
Instead of investing so much energy in creating a pseudo police state, the school should be working with the community to create a more youth-friendly environment, including developing programs and services that are attractive to young people. Parry Sound has deep musical roots – why not partner with the Festival of the Sound to create a youth music festival featuring everything from the newest punk stuff to the classics?
A kind of giant un-stuffy Kiwanis that celebrates youth achievement? Involve local music teachers, students and seniors for a bang up mix.
Could we turn over one or two of the empty spaces downtown to young entrepreneurs? Hold a contest...heck create a television or YouTube show around young entrepreneurs or artists or craftspeople each vying for a space to showcase their wares free of charge for a few weeks.
Nourish the growing “foodie” movement. Restaurants, schools and the community at large would benefit from supporting local food development.
Companies like Crofter’s could get involved in finding new ways to use their jam or to develop new and interesting flavours by harnessing the creative talents of both seniors and young people. Invite the public to submit new recipes; create cooking demonstrations and provide tasting opportunities. Grocery stores, restaurants and local farmers could all be potential partners.
We need to find ways to engage and support our existing cultural industries; our museum, library, Festival of the Sound and Stockey Centre by involving them in he process. Why couldn’t the library host a writer’s conference or create a committee to vet unpublished manuscripts, the winners of which could be sent to a publisher...or self-published and distributed through the library?
Developing and sustaining programs that can grow and develop into homegrown industries takes energy, commitment co-operation and resources.
It means taking a long hard look at what is working in the community and what is not.
It means working together at all levels, forcing schools outside of their comfort zone; engaging local businesses and most of all generating the good will of the public. If we want a vibrant community that attracts and sustains all generations, we will have to do much more than we are doing now.