February 03, 2016

Mayor’s Breakfast good for information and connections

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Mayor‘s bi-annual breakfast meetings can be useful not only to business people, but to anyone willing to get up early for an update on activities at the Town and County, and a chance to talk to other people who care about local affairs.

Al Alls hosted one at David’s Restaurant on January 19, including presentations by Economic Development Officer Robyn Mulder, her Wellington counterpart Jana Burns and County Warden George Bridge.

The mayor covered a few highlights of recent Town activities, such as digging out soft spots and old corduroy logs during reconstruction of 17 Sideroad, replacing rotted boards at Hull’s Dam and installing new boards at the Hillsburgh arena – which could become a sledge hockey centre.

He took the opportunity to publicly introduce two new members of Town staff, Michael Tapp (IT Systems Administration) and Carol House (Chief Building Official), and to remind people that the Town would like to hold a major celebration for Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.

He stressed the importance of getting the Wastewater Environmental Assessment done during this term of council, and of implementing the Momentum Economic Action Plan to build up the commercial and industrial tax base.

“We need to kickstart this community and get it going,” he said. “The Town is open for business.”

Warden Bridge said Wellington is actively promoting local benefits to potential new residents.

“We want make sure people understand that they can do everything they can do in the big city, and have a quality of life they will never have the big city.”

He said rural areas and small towns need access to reliable, high speed internet, especially for high-tech farms and home-based entrepreneurs. The Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus is working on a $287 million project called SWIFT, to build a fibre optic cable backbone that would enable private firms to deliver the service more economically.

They’re hoping for $100 million from the federal government and $50 million from the province, plus major private sector investment to make the plan a reality. He points out there are 3.5 million people living to the west of the GTA-Hamilton area who don’t get enough support from senior governments. He said municipal property taxes cannot bear the cost of needed improvements, so major infrastructure funding is needed.

Robyn Mulder said that she would be producing a monthly Business Newsletter for Erin. There is a section of the Town website, erin.ca, dedicated to economic development, with links to various reports and initiatives.

For example, business respondents are needed for the EmployerOne Survey, by the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin. It will analyze hiring trends and recruitment strategies, to provide guidance to schools, community partners and government on the local labour market.

Jana Burns highlighted some County initiatives, including Global Talent Attraction, which helps businesses access the people they need from the “talent pool”. That’s one part of the Business Retention and Expansion project, which this year will focus on the downtown retail sector.

Burns also highlighted the promotion of events, especially the 2016 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo, to be held September 20-24 in Harriston. It will bring in about 75,000 visitors, an opportunity to promote Wellington’s assets, including food and entertainment.

They continue to promote the Taste•Real initiative, with the Source It Here food networking event February 8 at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre near Guelph.

The County is also working on a visitors map, a signage strategy, live & work bus tours, an Agri-Food Forum on international trade, and has released a Welcome to Wellington video that features Erin.