UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The impact of the B.C. enterprise development centres on local economic development MacDonald, Ann


The thesis identifies several characteristics intrinsic to a process of local economic development. Intended as a proactive and endogenous process, local economic development seeks to reduce a region's reliance on exported primary resources and external economies. Strategies intended to encourage the process frequently address two factors: how capital leakages can be decreased and how the value of exports can be increased. The thesis addresses two variables in local economic development. One is the role of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial ventures facilitate new technologies and services, provide competition to existing companies and create new jobs which are locally based and owner-operated. A second variable is the twofold role played by education and the colleges in particular in facilitating the establishment of an environment which is conducive to entrepreneurship. As learning institutions, the colleges have an important role to play in the promotion of attitudes and values required to encourage entrepreneurial ventures. A second role is to identify and address regional economic development opportunities. Informational barriers, in the form of poor access to business educational services, restrict the numbers of entrepreneurial ventures in the province and contribute to high numbers of business failures. A college-based enterprise development centre is introduced in the thesis as a novel way to overcome these barriers and address the needs of the entrepreneur and the small business owner/operator. In their association with the colleges, these centres could also serve to promote attitudes and values which make entrepreneurship and self-employment a feasible option in the minds of college students. The thesis identifies three particular objectives for a college-based enterprise development centre: to deliver highly responsive and flexible educational services to the small business sector; to establish a close and interactive relationship between the college and the small business sector in order to encourage experiential learning and enhanced levels of entrepreneurship among the students, and to identify and facilitate the training for local economic development opportunities. These objectives are contained in a model EDC which is used as a yardstick to evaluate eight enterprise development centres established by the colleges in B.C. via the Local Economic Development and Renewal Fund (LERD). Four particular areas of interest constitute the basis of the evaluation: the extent to which the centres are engaged in a process which contributes to local economic development and the creation of new wealth; the flexible delivery of educational services to the small business sector; the promotion of entrepreneurship; and the integration of the centres with their respective colleges. The most dominant impact of the B.C. enterprise development centres appears to be in the delivery of educational services to the small business sector. The centres provide one-to-one counselling and business services in a way which is flexible and responsive to the needs of the small business sector. They are also actively promoting entrepreneurship in that they have helped to establish support and professional networks for new entrepreneurs. Two primary weaknesses of the existing B.C. structure are the reactive nature of the centres' activities and their weak and poorly integrated links to the colleges. Two overall conclusions are drawn. One, as few regional policies appear to be in place to encourage the formulation of a regional strategy, the thesis concludes that the LERD fund is not reflective of renewed support for regional planning and development in the province. Also, there is little evidence to suggest that a decentralization effort intended to create more local autonomy and control over the colleges is occurring. A second conclusion is that the colleges are not being restructured in order that they may become more pro-actively involved in a process of local economic development.

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