Looking toward an invisible sun
London, ON, May 2011
About this photo: If it's made of glass, we hope you'll share a similarly-themed picture of your very own. It's called Thematic, and you can get involved by clicking here.I live in the other London, the one without the accent, the European cachet, or the riots. We're a sleepy, mid-sized Canadian city that's often only too happy to live in the shadows of its more famous namesake.
We don't have traffic jams, per se, unless you define such a thing as a dozen cars arriving at a red light at approximately the same time. We don't have any expressways within the city limits. Nothing is more than a 20-minute drive away. I can realistically bike across the city and be back home in time for breakfast. Okay, a late breakfast, but still.
It makes for a quieter lifestyle, but it has its costs, too, like a sluggish economy and limited business/career opportunities for some. Unlike the "real" London, or Toronto, a mere two-hour drive east, our economy doesn't grow as much as it staggers from one milestone to the next. We tend to rely on fading sectors - manufacturing and call centers, for example - and as a result now enjoy one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. When Dr. Oetker, a German pizza maker, announced plans to open a plant here a few weeks ago, the out-of-scale cheerleading from a civic administration desperate for good news, any good news, was more than a little bizarre. And sad.
London, Ontario, world frozen pizza capital. We're so proud.
A number of notable initiatives and groups are doing great work to turn it around and reignite this place as a center of non-all-dressed-with-mushrooms-on-top innovation and business excellence, but it's a long road and we're just getting started.
This is a picture of London's Covent Garden Market, one of the jewels in the crown of an earlier effort to anchor the city's future. Part of a number of big-buck projects designed to spark interest in redeveloping our crumbling downtown, it's become a go-to place for the slowly growing number of area residents and the corporate employees who still work nearby. It's also a great example of the kind of long-lead investment that spurs growth for decades to come.
I no longer work in the neighborhood, so whenever I find myself downtown, I try to make it down here to soak in the sense of community and wonder about what will grow next out of this much admired seed. This place remains under a consistent cover of clouds, but as long as enough of us continue to look to the sky in the hope of a better future, the London that everyone forgets will continue to be the kind of place we want - and can afford - to call home.
Your turn: What will it take to jumpstart growth where you are?