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Masters Paper: Critiquing Community Profiles: Meaford, Canmore, and the Isle of Arran

This week my “EcDev: Policy and Practice” class had to submit papers critiquing community profiles, 1 of which had to be international. To kill 2 birds with one stone, I compared Meaford’s official community profile to 2 others. See my paper below:


This paper critiques three community profiles (Meaford, ON., Canmore, AB., and the Isle of Arran, Scotland) in accordance with the Community Profile (CP) Critique assignment in ECDEV 602. Meaford’s CP does a lot of boasting about the community but did not provide enough actionable economic data, Canmore’s CP provides excellent data and provided it well but it did not provide the narrative structure required to cultivate the reader’s inspiration and vision, and Arran’s CP provided a lot of data with narrative context but did not advertise itself as an economic prospect at all. The paper then proposes an outline for future community profiles.


Small communities across North America are struggling to attract investment from both already present investors or outside investors. The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the labour market has presented many opportunities for these communities to seize, including remote work, general desires to leave the city, and a desire to reduce supply chains. To capitalize on these changes and drive vitality-bringing economic development, small communities must actively compete to be more attractive to investors than others. To do this, they must not only have good features to provide but must be able to clearly present those features and definitely propose value to potential investors; like pitching any other good or service. A key part of this process is a Community Profile (CP), which is a document that showcases the community’s demographics to help investors understand who is in the community, how that population is changing, and how it compares to its competitors (Allan, 2017). According to Fairbrother (2015), VP of Brand and Digital Strategy at the travel marketing and economic development marketing consultancy DCI, 66% of executives were reviewing websites during their site selection processes, which increased 18% between 2011 and 2015. This number is now likely much higher now in September, 2022.

In this paper, I will critically evaluate three communities’ CPs and then based on that critique I will propose an outline template for an ideal CP for communities of a similar size. In order to better serve communities in my area of Grey-Bruce, Ontario, I have chosen to evaluate my home community, Meaford, ON. as well as Canmore, AB., and the Isle of Arran, Scotland as comparisons. These communities have populations approximately between 5,000 and 15,000 people, are post-industrial, and have natural features like waterfront and elevation to drive tourism and specialized production. Meaford and Arran are approximately 585km2 and 432km2 respectively, while Canmore is 69km2.

Community Profiles Evaluation

To evaluate these communities’ CPs, I will analyze how well they fit the criteria described by Allan (2017) and Fairbrother (2015) by combining and reducing these criteria sets to three: the findability of the CP and presentation of information (Findability and Presentation), the quality of benchmarks to other communities and showcasing of opportunities (Benchmarking and Showcasing), and recency and quality of the data (Data). Elaborated descriptions of these criteria are available in Appendix A.

The following sections for each CP will include a performance description and commentary, and the final conclusion section will be a comparison between the three. It should be mentioned beforehand that all three community profiles provide adequate demographic information to help potential investors understand who the community is made up of.

Meaford, Ontario

Findability and Presentation

Meaford’s official CP is very easy to find. The municipal website’s homepage,, has 4 clear navigation tabs at the top and “Business Development” is the third tab. Hovering the mouse over this tab reveals a set of useful options, including “Community Profile”. Googling “Meaford Community Profile” also yields this page as the first result. The Community Profile page is headed by the phrase, “Download our Community Profile to learn more about why people say, ‘I love it Here’”, with the .pdf document available right below. Additionally, the side of the page has Demographics and Location tabs. The demographics tab contains the most recent available data from the 2021 Canadian Census, that has very recently been published, presented through various semi-interactive data visualizations that are organized by basic demographics, labour force, taxation, quality of life, real estate, transportation, education, utilities, and companies.

The 34-page CP document itself is well organized with a table of contents that is thorough and relevant. To follow Fairbrother’s (2015) advice of having incentives front and centre and highlighting key industries more closely, the order of information could be adjusted. For example, Municipal Incentives could be higher up, as well as categories like agribusiness, health services, and other investment-ready industries. Instead, these categories come after Lifestyle, and the Library, which would have far less direct impact on a site-selection process. Allan (2017) suggests that a demographic story should be included in the document, yet this CP simply shows an age distribution chart and population numbers chart without any description or narrative structure about what this means for the community and why things are the way they are. Further, and this is important, this CP does not include any data about existing businesses. There are some qualitative notes about what is present, but nothing else that might help an investor understand what connections might be available.

This CP’s format has a polished modern look, but this format type prevents reuse features. Excerpts, especially images, cannot be easily taken and manipulated for representation purposes within potential investors’ organizations. Finally, the economic development representative’s information is buried at the bottom of the document, but is complete with multiple contact methods. A photo would have been a great personal touch, as suggested by Fairbrother (2015).

Benchmarking and Showcasing

The Meaford CP has excellent descriptions of its beneficial features and attractions. These features would be interesting to potential employees coming to the area, but do not help the municipality gain the upper hand in an employer’s site selection. Further, the significance of these positive aspects does not seem to carry any weight because they are not used to lift Meaford up above other communities. The beginning of the CP includes a brief description of Grey County, the upper-tier Municipality that is made up of Meaford and eight other municipalities, which speaks to Meaford’s place within it, but no comparisons are drawn in this section.

The only two instances of benchmarking are the affordability section, which compares Meaford’s average MPAC Assessment Rates with the other Grey County municipalities, and the Business Organizations section, which states a number of interesting non-Meaford organizations. The only Meaford organizations mentioned are the BIA and Chamber of Commerce, which are third and fourth in the list of seven, respectively. This does not exhibit confidence nor competence.


Despite the Meaford CP’s modern look, some of the data is out of date with 2020 being the most recent date mentioned in the whole document. These mentions reference expected completion dates for projects that have since been completed. Further, the economic development representative listed in the document no longer works for the municipality. This, combined with the document itself not being dated could lead to confusion for potential investors. Despite this, the facts and figures provided are from the 2016 Canadian census and other reputable organizations’ most recent publications and would have been accurate when the document was created. This is problematic because the Municipal website presents this document as today’s helpful tool, which in some respects, it is not.

Canmore, AB.

Findability and Presentation

Canmore’s CP is not as easy to find as Meaford’s. The first results on Google come from other sources and are highly specified profiles. As a whole, the website has a modern minimalist aesthetic, but seems to care more about showcasing scenery than usable information. To find the CP, one must click “Services” on the main navigation bar, then click “Economic Development”, and then click “Community Profile” in the list of icons.

Once open, this CP is excellent with an intuitively interactive user experience that drives engagement rather than reading. The population and demographic data are up to date as of the 2021 Canadian Census and is done so with an engaging mix of easy-to-digest numbers and visualizations. Users can manipulate the data and displays to take a deeper dive or get a different perspective. The main data categories are Economic, Resident, Household, Dwelling, Workforce, and Livability. More information could be included in some of the categories, but all the basics are covered, plus some.

Although the data is displayed very well, it does not give a clear understanding of what investing in Canmore could be like and what is going on there. Although the Town’s website has a lot of this information mixed throughout it, the CP itself has zero narrative structure and only presents data.

Benchmarking and Showcasing

Canmore’s CP has some benchmarking in its charts and visualizations, but it is limited to Alberta and Canada. This CP would benefit from comparisons to neighbouring communities or similar communities in other parts of the Province so that investors could see that Canmore is better than other places.

Although specific initiatives, businesses, or organizations are not showcased, the Workforce section gives a clear picture of what industries are common in the area. This could be improved by showing how many of Canmore’s workers are non-residents.


The data provided is from the most recent Statistics Canada census, and is each data point is clearly referenced.

Isle of Arran, Scotland

Findability and Presentation

The Isle of Arran’s CP is available on the North Ayrshire website. North Ayrshire is the Isle’s upper-tier council, or municipal body. The first Google result goes to a landing page about the “Arran Locality”, and the beneath “Locality Buttons” down the page is a link to the full Arran Locality Partnership page. This partnership page has a side-navigation bar that links to a “Key Facts” page which contains the “Arran Locality Profile”. Googling “Arran Locality Profile” will yield the correct page as a fourth result. Before clicking the link to the profile, the page has a good summary of basic stats and prospects for potential immigrants.

The locality profile (AKA Community Profile, or CP) was completed in 2017, is presented as a dense 86-page textbook about the people in the community with a clear academic tone. The profile is very thorough, with information presented in images, graphs, and narrative structure complete with projections of the future based on current trends. All this is organized using a clear table of contents.

Despite the in-depth nature of this CP, it describes the community, and does present any information that investors may want to know before investing. Most importantly, information about industries in the community or incentives and development fees are absent.

Benchmarking and Showcasing

Comparisons are made between different part of the Locality and the localities within North Ayrshire. Where possible, these are also compared to Scotland as a whole. As stated above, this is not done for the purpose of showcasing Arran as a competitor in any kind of site-selection process, but rather just a presentation of information. The profile does conclude with a description of Arran being a relatively attractive place because of its unique mix of geographic, demographic, economic, and wellbeing characteristics.


It is difficult to assess the quality of the data because I am not familiar with the United Kingdom’s data-collection agencies and their methods. However, I assume that they are of equal quality to Canada’s, and all are well-cited throughout the document.

Given that the profile was completed in 2017 it is currently out of date, though seems to have been made with the current data at the time. Unlike the other two Canadian communities that were subjected to many changes by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that Arran’s make-up has remained relatively isolated and stable since 2017 because of its island nature.


Despite these communities’ similarities, they have very different Community Profiles. These CPs are not only different in their design and presentation, but also the data that they choose to provide and the goals the profiles seem to be written with. All three profiles contained thorough demographic information, but lacked information that Allan (2017) and Fairbrother (2015) suggested be included and did so in different ways. All three profiles lacked clear highlights of opportunities, what is wanted in the community, useful GIS profiles of available services, zoning, etc., leading employers as well as contact information for the best person to reach today if someone wants more information. This is crucial information because it helps the reader see the path between the information they are reading and the successful of their upcoming investment. In conclusion, Meaford’s CP boasted about the community but did not provide enough actionable data, Canmore’s CP provided excellent data and provided it well but it did not provide the narrative structure required to cultivate the reader’s inspiration and vision, and Arran’s CP provided a lot of data with narrative context but did not advertise itself as an economic prospect at all. 

Proposed Outline for Mid-Sized Town Community Profiles

Based on these examples I have critiqued, I feel that the best formatting style is on an interactive and engaging website like Canmore’s profile, or Meaford’s separate demographics page. This format is much easier to process than lengthy linear documents and is easier to apply updates to. Narrative commentary like what is included in the Arran profile could be displayed as the reader moves their mouse around the different data displays. All of these elements should be available to copy or screen capture so that readers can build their own reports and presentations with the data. For Canadian communities, comparisons should be made provided with the other communities within their upper-tier municipalities, the province, and country. The Economic Development representative’s information should be present all pages with “Contact Me” prompt messages and a photo of them in recognizable areas of the community. The following is a suggested outline of material:

Welcome Page

  • Viewed when opening the profile
  • Brief overview of the community and the information contained in the profile explaining that it is meant to provide information to help people interested in the community decide how they want to join in
  • Contact information for the assigned economic development representative
  • Active news section

Current Opportunities

  • Highlighting what is missing in the community and what people would like to see come to town
  • Information on incentive programs that align with those opportunities with links to more information


  • Exhibitions of key industries and leading employers
  • Showcase how networked and connected the community is and how it pools relevant resources


  • Layered maps of municipal zoning, services, proposed plans, travel routes
  • Maps with other variables; age, income, transport methods, etc.


  • Population growth trends, age profiles, income, housing distribution and affordability, household size

Workforce and Employment

  • Journey to work data, education and accreditations, occupations, seniority, age data (again)
  • Information on all other businesses in the community as available separated by industry / sector


  • Images of population locations from social media feeds
  • links to relevant businesses and services, recreation, residential service highlights like library and arts


  • Housing costs (again), commuting info (again), methods of transport
  • Recreation, residential service highlights like library and arts (again)
  • Testimonials from residents and employers

Service Clubs

  • Directory of service clubs and updated information about their work

Development Fees

  • Information about any development fees with links to associated governing documents, etc.


North Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership. (2017). Arran Locality Profile. Retrieved on September 26 from

Allan, G. (2017, April 13). How to profile your local community like a pro. id consulting pty ltd.

Fairbrother, P. (2015, August 31). 10 best practices for economic development websites. Development Counsellors International (DCI).

Town of Canmore. Community Profile. Retrieved on September 26, 2022 from

Municipality of Meaford. Community Profile. Retrieved on September 26, 2022 from

Appendix A

Description of Evaluation Criteria

Findability and Presentation: how easy was it to find the CP, what does it cover, what impression does it present, what is the user experience of using the profile?

Benchmarking and Showcasing: how is the data used to position the respective community as more attractive than economically competing communities?

Data: how data is collected, what sources collected it, and when it was collected?

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