Local IDEAs

Local Indicator Database for Economic Analysis

The Creative Economy in Muskoka

Executive Summary

Over the past decade, urban and rural communities in Canada and around the world have begun to encourage a creative economy as a mechanism to use local assets and human capital to address socioeconomic issues, and improve internal and external conditions, investment, and collaborations. The creative economy encompasses creative industries, occupations, arts, culture and heritage, with success dependent upon the attraction and retention of talent and knowledge-based workers: “people employed in science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment occupations. Creative occupations (creative class) cross all sectors and industries, and relate to the nature of the job itself, not the industry in which an individual is employed. The primary economic function of the Creative Class is to generate new ideas, new technology and/or new creative content” (Stolarick et al., 2010: 3).

The creative economy is a place-based approach to economic development. It emphasizes local resources, entrepreneurship, talent, skills, and production, as well as collective goals and actions. In turn, the recognition and value derived from these assets allow a community to be less concerned by what is produced elsewhere to foster prosperity locally. While other rural creative economies can provide inspiration, issues and opportunities are place specific, and in developing creative economy initiatives communities must not simply duplicate or borrow what has been done elsewhere. Once local traits and contributors have been identified it is then up to champions within the community at large to move a creative agenda forward.   With growing support, federal and provincial governments across Canada have already recognized the benefits of investing in the creative economy. Rural communities in Ontario are studying and employing creative economic development in recognition of global economic trends, and issues posed by declining manufacturing and export-based industries. In Ontario, creative job opportunities are the fastest growing segment of employment, and increased by 22% from 1996 to 2006. These jobs employ 35% of the workforce but pay 51% of wages and salaries (AuthentiCity et al., 2009: 7).  Rural areas face challenges in supporting the creative economy due to vast geographies and dispersed populations. As a result, they require cooperation among government, civic organizations, institutions and the private sector to share leadership initiatives and promote networking and collaboration. Quality of place and abundance of resources (human and natural) drive rural creative economies, and research shows that the same features that attract tourists are also important to the creative class.   Muskoka has energy and interest, a well-known and historic natural environment, strong arts community, technology infrastructure, post-secondary network, and emerging creative food sector – all of which are driving the regions creative economy. Despite these assets, work is needed to bring together residents, businesses, governments, institutions, and organizations with a collective goal to further develop and support talent and innovation locally. Creative economy stakeholders across Muskoka must work together to maximize what is clearly an emerging creative economy that holds significant potential to enhance the region economically, socially, and culturally. Over time, aligning these efforts and developing clear and intentional strategies can position Muskoka as a rural creative economy leader in Ontario, Canada, and around the world.  This report uncovers the attributes, strengths, challenges, and opportunities associated with Muskoka’s creative economy to recommend actions for further development and support. The most current information available has been used, and the report can be updated as new data is released to establish clear trends related to the creative economy. Research was conducted between October 2010 and February 2011 using primary and secondary analysis including literature review, statistical data, regions of comparison, and key-informant interviews.
“ [The] creative economy doesn ‘t have to be our only thrust,  but understanding it and recognizing it could make a significant difference to our communities”  – (Key-Informant 3)


You can download the report here:

Shyllit, R. and Spencer, G.M. 2011. Water, Rocks and Trees Building Upon Our Rich Resources: The Creative Economy in Muskoka. The District of Muskoka, Muskoka Futures, and Creative Muskoka.

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