Forum explores steps to improved economy
By Angelica Blenich
Ideas for economic development continue to swirl in Dysart et al as the municipality hosted the second workshop on June 16 at the Haliburton Curling Club.
Following on the heels of a well-attended inaugural workshop held this past April, community leaders and politicians continued dialogue on the topic of economic development for the area and began putting together strategies to tackle the issue.
Six key themes were identified from the first session and working groups explored the topics of business retention and expansion, housing, youth retention, environment and the economy, culture and recreation and community groups and volunteers.
Facilitated by representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the workshop had participants discuss strategies and next steps for each of the areas of interest.
Some of the standout discussion points included the lack of year-round customers to support the local economy, a need for succession planning for existing businesses and attracting capital investment.
Speaking on behalf of the housing group, Bram Lebo suggested reimagining the village core and envisioning a community that was inviting to seniors.
“The first thing we need to do is plan what we want,” he said. “That vision would be the responsibility of council ... first put your stake in the sand and say this is the town we’d like to have 20 years from now and spend a year or so figuring out what that vision looks like. Spend another year figuring out the how ... and then spend the next 20 years or so building it one piece at a time as we can afford it.”
In regards to business retention, Aaron Walker reported to the group ideas such as business incentives and a head-hunting honorarium, to reward individuals who are successful in attracting new business to the area.
“One of our issues is commercial tax rates and the cost to be in business in general,” said Walker. “So an objective of ours is to give incentives for creating new business and putting a moratorium ... on raising the commercial tax rate.”
The group also suggested reviewing the official plan and how it affects commercial development.
Looking at the environment and economy, suggestions that came forward included finding an alternative waste management system, preferably one that could be county-wide.
Another critical issue is that of clean water, which contributes to the economic activity in the area.
In terms of culture and recreation, Jim Blake on behalf of his group spoke on creating a recreation plan, similar to a cultural plan, that would look at infrastructure, facilities, programming, resources, etc.
“There is a possibility of doing this in- house, with the support of agencies,” said Blake.
Ideas for youth retention included connecting students with jobs through lake associations, who could do more to promote economic opportunities.
Moving forward the municipality is looking at striking an economic development committee at the next working session, scheduled for August, said Reeve Murray Fearrey.
“I really want to thank you for some great ideas,” he said. “We are anxious to work with you. I think it’s very positive.”