May 13, 2015

Mayor says wastewater essential for economic growth

As published in The Erin Advocate

Mayor Al Alls continues to push for an Environmental Assessment (EA) of wastewater options, saying that sewer service is essential for economic growth.

He provided an update on economic development initiatives during a breakfast meeting for local business people on May 6 at David’s Restaurant.

“We’ve changed our idea of economic development in Erin and we want to do more,” said Alls. “We all need to work together – there’s no one route.”

Economic Development Coordinator Bob Cheetham has brought together a 14-member advisory committee to develop a 4-year Action Plan. Community focus groups will have a chance to provide input before it goes to council for approval in July.

“It’s a pretty aggressive plan to move forward, but we need to get moving on it,” said Cheetham. The mayor has been promoting a more helpful approach by Town staff, and said council wants to hear from people with ideas for investment or improvement to the Town’s service to businesses.

Calling wastewater the “elephant in the room”, Alls said council will make a definite decision on proceeding with the EA in June, which is expected to cost $200,000 per year over three years. He said the town has been “stymied” in its development, and that a plan is needed before senior governments will consider providing the essential funding of at least 66%.

“It is money well-spent in my opinion,” said Alls. “It is a gamble, but if you don’t take that first step in the journey, you’re not going to get through, and you’re not going to get this town to grow. We want it to grow – not to go crazy, but we need it to grow.

“Erin has been stalled, and we want to get it going. I want to make Erin the economic engine for Wellington County.”

On hand at the breakfast to promote Wellington County’s commitment to economic growth were Warden George Bridge, CAO Scott Wilson and Economic Development Officer Jana Reichert.

The County has developed an Economic Development Strategy and Sector Investment Profiles. They are actively recruiting new investment by Canadian and international firms, as well as supporting expansion plans for existing businesses.

They have an on-line business directory, promote a wide range of festivals and events, publish profiles of local businesses and have provided a grant of $25,000 to support Erin’s economic development activities.

Bridge said Minto has dealt with some of the same challenges facing Erin and has succeeded in boosting commercial and industrial assessment by more than 10%. They have programs that provide business plan advice, mentors and an incubation program for entrepreneurs. There is also a plan to attract “alumni” – people who grew up in the community and might want to move back and set up a business.

Cheetham showed off the banners that Erin now uses at public events, promoting the town as a destination and a place to live, with a thriving economy. He has been working with the Business Improvement Area, the Chamber of Commerce and Headwaters Tourism (no longer “Hills of Headwaters”).

He said Erin will soon be part of the Headwaters Parade of Horses, a series of 25 outdoor fiberglass horse sculptures painted in a whimsical fashion by various artists – like the moose sculptures of a few years ago in the Toronto area. There will be one at McMillan Park in Erin village and another at Century Church Theatre in Hillsburgh.

With 400 horse farms, Erin wants to to highlight this major base of business during the equine events in Caledon and Mono that are part this summer’s Pan-Am Games.