Sunday, August 21, 2011

To market, we must go

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?

1 comment:

rashbre said...

Our London Covent Garden used to be a fruit market, but was turned into a mainstream tourist area which is in part of the central area.

It's always jam packed with tourists as well as the may Londoners using it as a short cut through the theatre district.