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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Collaboration key to Niagara’s economic success

Niagara Economic Summit focuses on finding ways to work together

Niagara needs to set its differences aside and focus on the region’s economic growth, says Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce president Mishka Balsom.

She said common themes discussed Friday, when as many as 350 people participated in the sold-out Niagara Economic Summit, were “to breakdown silos, collaboration, leadership and transparency.”

“The people who were here today were the people who are passionate about Niagara and want to see it move forward,” Balsom said, as the daylong event was wrapping up at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“If we’re not moving forward, we’re actually moving backwards.”

The event included more than 20 delegates, representing Niagara’s industries, economic development agencies and municipalities, who shared their ideas about the region’s economic growth potential in a series of speeches and panel discussions.

Grape Growers of Ontario chief executive officer Deb Zimmerman, too, said Niagara’s communities must work together.

“We need to have an honest conversation about who we really are as a region, and it’s going to take leadership to move us to the next level,” she said, adding the recent municipal elections provided a “clean slate” and a “great opportunity.”

That collaboration should also include Niagara’s partners on the U.S. side of the border, said Buffalo-Niagara Partnership chief executive officer Dottie Gallagher.

“I think it’s really important that we get to really connect as human beings, because that’s where opportunity comes from,” Gallagher said.

“Private-sector business owners and representatives on both sides of this border, we want to work together and we don’t want it getting in the way of doing business.”

While focusing on goals for Niagara’s future growth, Balsom said delegates identified the most significant barrier to achieving the goal — its workforce.

“It was a common theme — every single one of them saying that the access to talent and the ability to retain talent is the biggest challenge that we have,” she said. “And it’s not a Niagara-specific challenge. It’s really an Ontario challenge, a Canadian challenge that we have.”

Zimmerman said Niagara needs to “build more diversity into our workforce into our workforce and recognize that we’re better together.”
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