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Deep holes and how to fill them: An overview of local economic development practitioner perspectives on issues related to plant closures

Authors: Evan Cleave*, Ryerson University, Godwin Arku, University of Western Ontario
Topics: Economic Geography, Business Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: plant closures, local economic development, small and midsized cities, Ontario, Canada
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Over the past half-century, plant closures have become a defining feature of a changing economic landscape in Canada, the United States, and Europe. These closures are part of wider processes of global economic restructuring and deregulation, the flight of manufacturing to new markets, as well as technological change and innovation. The impacts of this metamorphosis are substantial. Since 2000, roughly 500,000 manufacturing related jobs have been lost across Canada, with over 300,000 occurring in the Province of Ontario. This is particularly true for small and midsized cities where the loss of manufacturing and other plants have left deep holes within communities. Within this context, there are still gaps in knowledge and understanding, including the way that local economic development practitioners interpret plant closures, how planning and policy are used to prepare for and respond to plant closures, and how they can support and grow their local economy in a turbulent landscape. To explore these issues in-depth interviews were conducted with local economic development practitioners from a range of small and midsized communities in Ontario to access their experience and perspectives. Emerging from these interviews, several key themes emerged: that plant closures tend to be sudden and unexpected, causing damage to the sense and cohesion of the community, and with labour unprepared for the shocks caused by closures and requiring significant retraining. In response, the practitioners highlight the need for encouraging small business, the creation of job action centres, and fostering business relationships.

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