Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Partnering for Economic Development: How Town-Gown Relations Impact Local Economic Development in Small and Medium Cities

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Partnering for Economic Development: How Town-Gown Relations Impact Local Economic Development in Small and Medium Cities

Article excerpt

Abstract

Universities play an increasingly prominent role in shaping regional, social, and economic development. In Canada, however, spatial, economic, and social differences between universities and their host communities continue to challenge positive town-gown relationships and undermine the benefits associated with high concentrations of prospective young, "creative" graduates. The purpose of this article is to identify the factors that lead to positive town-gown relations and, subsequently, encourage graduate retention. Through this research, university and town administrators were found to play a key role in establishing a positive relationship between students and community members. Local employment opportunities were also found to help students build an experiential relationship with their localities and make them more likely to settle there after graduation.

Résumé

Les universités jouent un rôle toujours plus important en ce qui concerne l'expansion régionale, sociale et économique. Au Canada cependant, les différences spatiales, économiques et sociales entre les universités et leurs collectivités d'accueil, constituent toujours un défipour les rapports positifs entre les villes et leurs universitaires, en plus de miner les avantages liés aux fortes concentrations de jeunes diplômés « créatifs » potentiels. Le but de cet article est d'identifier les facteurs qui conduisent à des relations positives entre les villes et leurs universitaires et, conséquemment, encouragent la rétention des diplômés. Par cette étude, l'université et les administrateurs de ville ont joué un rôle essentiel dans l'établissement d'une relation positive entre les étudiants et les membres de la collectivité. En outre, il a été démontré que des possibilités d'emploi locales aidaient les étudiants à établir une relation expérimentale avec ces localités et les rendaient plus enclins à s'y établir une fois leur diplôme obtenu.

Introduction

Universities play an increasingly prominent role in shaping regional, social, and economic development. They are "pivotal component[s] of an underlying infrastructure for innovation on which the system of knowledge-based capitalism draws" (Florida & Cohen, 1999, p. 604). Local intellectual and knowledge creation is of primary importance for regional economic development (Russo, van den Berg, & Lavanga, 2007), and universities stimulate this development by providing local employment and also through the establishment of local knowledge networks and research and development strategies (Huggins & Cooke, 1997; Huggins, Jones, & Upton, 2008). The evolution of university-industry knowledge incubators are indicative of this process (Etzkowitz, 2002).

In Canada, universities play an increasingly central role in the economic development of mid-sized cities. With unprecedented leverage in both land and labour markets, urban and semi-urban universities have partnered with city councils to redraw local social and economic geographies. These partnerships are predominant in Ontario, where the consequences of global economic restructuring (e.g., the erosion of the manufacturing sector and the rise in service-based industries) are particularly apparent. Strategic town-gown partnerships, designed to support local economic development by enticing recent graduates to live and work in the locality, are now in place across the province.

For some communities, tumultuous relationships between the university administration and the surrounding community have been a barrier to the university-driven approach to economic growth and the universities' abilities to influence a community's economic geography (Massey & Gouthro, 2011). In response to a growing awareness of the economic, social, and cultural benefits of harnessing a university's knowledge-based resources, Ontario communities have begun to address these historically strained town- gown relations. Examples of partnerships developed in recent years include: (a) the strategic agreement between the London Municipal Council and the University of Western Ontario, whereby the Mayor of London now serves on the board of governors for the university; (b) the Town and Gown Committee of the City of Waterloo, which is comprised of representatives from the cities of Waterloo and Kitchener, the two local universities - the University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University - and the satellite campus of Conestoga College; (c) the Town and Gown Committee of the City of Windsor, with representatives from the University of Windsor and St. …

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