Innovation in economic development marketing:

How Kingston Economic Development Captures Interest by Capitalizing on Balance

Photo of Dave Parsell
Dave Parsell
July 24, 2023

Vast spaces of green. Afternoons by the water. Limestone as far as the eye can see.

In southeastern Ontario, there’s a city that’s been quietly booming. A city that was built on a rich history of national importance, and a city that, nearly two centuries later, is once again causing onlookers to take notice.

Welcome to Kingston.

Nestled on a waterfront and boasting a unique juxtaposition of provincial parks, heritage architecture, and downtown bustle, the city – in all of its 450 square kilometers – offers environmental diversity against a backdrop of ease.

The commute times are negligible. The bike lanes are expanding. The walkability – that is, the ability to get where you’re going on-foot – has been voted one of the country’s best.

But while all of those facets work together to paint an idyllic picture, they also work together to signify the contrast. The contrast between the lives that Kingston residents are able to lead – and the lives that residents of louder concrete jungles have long been left with.

The Entity

For the Kingston Economic Development Corporation – the not-for-profit agency responsible for attracting and retaining investment – the city’s picturesque environment is a given.

But it’s really only part of the appeal.

Boasting three world-class post-secondary educational institutions, it has a burgeoning pool of talent. Encasing an award-winning ecosystem for startups, it has a deep-seated culture of innovation. Straddling rail-lines, highway, and lake and river access, it has an unrivaled proximity to cities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border – putting 130 million North American consumers within a day’s reach.

From the ready-made workforce to the support-heavy infrastructure to the market accessibility, Kingston’s utility as a setting for start-ups and multinational corporations alike is potent.

It’s undeniable.

But while Nour Mazloum – the Marketing and Communications Manager at Kingston Economic Development – is proud of that bucolic backdrop and those corporate advantages, she also knows that they don’t tell the full “Why Kingston?” story.

The Why

Life without chaos. Leadership without roadblocks. Leisure without limits.

For Mazloum and her team, Kingston’s value is far greater than just its geography or corporate incentives. What sets it apart as a site is its ability to support the needs of organizations – while supporting the lives of the people who push them forward.


The backbone of Kingston Economic Development’s strategic pitch, balance presents the city as a leader in commercial prosperity and a driver of quality of life. But while it might seem lofty, as Mazloum demonstrates through an array of awards: it’s actually been proven.

“We’ve been named the #1 Small City in Canada by StartupBlink, one of the Top 20 Places to Invest by Site Selection Magazine, and the #1 Small City for Foreign Investment,” she lists, the last of which is a nod from Financial Times UK.

“We’ve been named the best place to be a woman, the best place for younger people to start their lives, the Top City for raising a family,” she continues. “We have all of these attractions for lifestyle.”

Affordability. Short commutes. Recreation.

“Go for a 30-minute drive and you’re kayaking, you’re paddle-boarding, you’re hiking,” she says. “Whatever your activities are, they’re there.”

And though it might sound like hyperbole, the truth is, Kingston is that lifestyle-equipped. From the nature-driven activities (including “some of the best sailing in Canada”) to the electrifying arts scene (local artists have earned 25 Juno Awards) to the boundary-pushing displays of food & beverage (like this zero-waste cocktail bar and restaurant), it has something for everyone.

Perhaps Tim Smith, CEO of Octane Medical Group, puts it best: “The lifestyle here is excellent.”

The How

With so much bubbling inside the small city, the greatest challenge for Mazloum and her team hasn’t been coming up with the pitch. It’s been streamlining it.

When they embarked on the Kingston Economic Development rebrand back in 2022, their focus was simple: deliver a cohesive narrative that makes the value of Kingston clear. But faced with the competing messaging of local organizations, the differing needs of audience subsets, and the broad impact of a global pandemic, their process got complicated.

So, they took a page out of their city’s playbook – and oriented their efforts around balance.

First, there was the balance of messaging: working directly with Tourism Kingston and Kingston Accommodation Partners, Mazloum and her team crafted unified communications – so every organization felt represented.

“We didn’t want to go to market promoting different messages,” she says, “so it was a learning experience for us to unite our voices.”

Next, there was the balance of channels: with Kingston Economic Development targeting a diverse audience, choosing the right mix of marketing mediums was crucial. Where Mazloum’s team favored LinkedIn to reach decision-makers in health innovation, and sustainable manufacturing, they opted for video content – via Instagram and YouTube – to captivate start-ups.

Finally, there was the balance of delivery: since COVID-19 altered the priorities of millions, emphasizing Kingston’s livability factor – in tandem with its corporate advantages – became all the more important.

By integrating accolades like “Most Vibrant Downtown” and “Best Fresh Water Sailing Harbour in North America” alongside market differentiators like “Third-Largest GDP Connection in North America,” they ensured the website showed off Kingston’s dual-pronged value – and devotion to balance as a whole.

The Future

From the brand new website to the unified promotions to the content across marketing channels, Kingston Economic Development’s rebrand strategy has been focused on clarity – but it’s also been committed to evolution.

Its future-oriented tactics work to prove that.

Example A: its use of Localintel tools. On almost every main page of the website, tools like the Market Advantages widget provide visitors with the clear data they need to get to know Kingston quickly – as it is today.

“They’re brilliant for anyone,” Mazloum explains. “I’m looking at this sector and I can categorize, filter, sort.” Plus, with high-traffic pages like the landing page always evolving, the interactive storytelling tools can be swapped in or out based on shifting demand.

Then, there’s the continued dialogue with local organizations: “we meet monthly to continue to work together to sell Kingston,” Mazloum says. From the “Come Visit” ads all over Ottawa to the “Come Invest” ads online and in-person, the result is a clear alignment of voice – regardless of which organization is speaking.

And then, of course, there’s the dedication to meeting the audience where they are. Whether Mazloum and her team are vying for the attention of executives at multinational corporations or post-grad start-up founders, they’ve pledged themselves to staying agile – and curious.

By “learning the market,” she notes, “we noticed that people like much shorter videos. So we’re looking at targeting more of them that way.”

The Impact

Already, the impact of Kingston Economic Development’s comprehensive rebrand has been substantial. “The feedback,” Mazloum says, “is beyond what I expected.”

And that’s not an exaggeration. With offices from two different Ontario cities set to travel to Kingston to learn from the team directly, they’ve become an example of marketing expertise.

“They’re spending two days here and we’re walking them through the entire process,” she explains. “It’s a huge compliment to the work that was done.”

But still, Mazloum would be the first to tell you that the efforts of Kingston Economic Development are far from over. With the city rapidly growing – and recent wins like Umicore’s EV manufacturing facility and Li-Cycle’s Centre of Excellence expansion cementing its identity as an innovation launchpad – it’s getting more attention than ever. And that attention requires an online presence that can keep up.

“I believe that Kingston, in the near future, will be leading the space in health innovation, and sustainable manufacturing,” Mazloum says. “And, as one of the leading economic development offices in Canada,” she continues, “we’ll be supporting that growth.”

But while they might have a busy road ahead of them, the marketing and communications manager behind Kingston Economic Development isn’t concerned. They’re equipped with the right strategy, the right tactics, and the right commitment to staying nimble.

And they’re working inside a city that offers more than just a job, but a life.

We trust you’ve found this article useful. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us should you have any questions.

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