I was a little disappointed in some of the answers I got from my chosen slate of candidates below. I was looking for suggestions more along the lines of my cycling post last week. Cheap practical ideas that get people visiting and spending money in this town. Economic development isn’t just about manufacturing jobs, its also about creating an economic climate that gives people confidence to want to start successful businesses that then create jobs.
This is the blog I wrote with my ideas for Economic Development.
Of the 6 ideas I wrote about in the blog, the one I feel is the most important, is to hire an expert.
We have watched this council waste millions of dollars, attempting to micro-manage Collingwood’s Economic Development.
– A new dock?
– A chipper?
– a concrete floor for the Eddie Bush?
– renovate the Annex?
– a new dog park?
It took this council over 3 years to make Economic Development a “priority”. I’d love to hear an incumbent explain that one to the voters.
Economic development is without question a key issue facing our area in the coming years. As stated when I announced my candidacy, I was present in 1986 to witness the final ship constructed here slip into the harbor and with it the last 200 or so jobs of this once thriving industry. Since then we have watched helplessly as other well paying industrial jobs have slipped beneath the waves in a sea of turbulent economic change, with factories closing and in some cases the buildings demolished. We are not the only community to have experienced this phenomena, hundreds of cities and towns across North America have endured the same heart wrenching drama of watching higher paying manufacturing jobs leave their respective communities never to return.
Frankly, I find it hard to exude much credit and or optimism for the Town’s recent initiative, opening a “Business Development Centre.” As per the Town’s own website, this facility is and I quote: “Designed to be a one-stop shop for all local business needs.” Normally I am not one for clichés however after reading the July 30th announcement issued by the Town announcing the opening of the facility two come to mind. First, we have put the “cart before the horse” establishing this entity after which we then went about hiring a Manager of Marketing and Business Development. Should we not have hired this person first, then allowed them to utilize their expertise in developing a strategic plan which may or may not have included establishing a “Business Development Centre?” Secondly, from my prior positions as a senior executive with several private and publically owned corporations, I can assure you that adopting a “build it and they will come attitude” which seems to be the sentiment with the establishment of this Centre without a well defined strategic plan is nothing more than a façade and in an election year at that.
Economic development in today’s global economy is a complex issue with no easy answers. The one idea or notion if you of which I am a huge proponent of and must be adopted by the incoming Council is the fact that economic development cannot be fulfilled with a “made in Collingwood” solution. This is truly a “regional” issue and must be approached as such with our neighbouring municipalities. Much of our labour pool resides in Wasaga Beach, the Blue Mountains and Meaford. The volume of traffic flowing into Collingwood from Highway 26 east and west in the morning attests to this fact. The biggest draws to our area in terms of the tourism industry reside outside the municipality as does our airport. What makes us think that opening an office on Hurontario Street is going to generate any more jobs that the ones created to staff the facility itself? Engaging other area municipalities with respect to economic development creates the critical mass needed to collectively work with the County, the Province and even the Federal government if need be to attract meaningful, long term employment to the area once we have identified what types of businesses or industry we can best support.
I do have a number of ideas that relate to economic development but since housing issues have been my focus in this community for many, many years I will answer from this perspective. Most people will not see a connection between economic development and the need to have a range of housing options that meet the needs of all of our residents. As an example, historically speaking, this municipality missed the opportunity to have a large expansion that would have meant an addition 100 jobs at the Goodyear plant specifically because Goodyear looked at the housing situation in Collingwood and didn’t feel that the housing options were affordable for their employees based on the wages they would be offering. One can only speculate but perhaps that plant would still be here if it had been a larger part of Goodyear’s operations. However, I only use it as an example of why housing is a piece of the puzzle when looking at the economic development strategies needed moving forward. Economists will tell you that for every job created the ‘spinoff effect’ is equally important to the economy. In other words, that one job results in additional benefits to the local economy because the employee lives and spends here. If people cannot afford to live here – even if they come here to work- they will not be spending their dollars locally.
Much of our economy today is based on service industry jobs and the employees who work those jobs are a very important part of our economy but they struggle to keep a roof over their heads and meet other basic needs costs. Moving forward, the next Council should be looking at developing it’s own Housing Strategy as Wasaga Beach and several other Simcoe County communities have now done. While the County of Simcoe has developed a 10 year affordable housing strategy, it is important that each municipality work in unison with the County to meet their own community’s needs. I have been appointed to the County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee to move that plan forward. Collingwood has a number of gaps in the housing spectrum – affordable ownership opportunities to allow our young people to get into the market, affordable rental opportunities for the working poor, affordable rental opportunities for our growing population of low income seniors. Improving this situation is a key part of economic development.
In order for Collingwood to truly be a sustainable, inclusive and diverse community many steps need to be taken to improve our prosperity. Economic development strategies are absolutely crucial to achieving these goals.
To promote jobs in Collingwood you must have the intensification of population to support service, retail and small manufacturing. Availability of the skilled workers that the employers are looking for to fill them is necessary to attract new jobs and an education/support structure for the development of jobs through entrepreneurship is critical. It has been reported that Collingwood has slipped down the list of the most desirable places to live in Canada. Affordable housing for families wanting to live and work in Collingwood (or the Georgian Triangle for that matter) is a challenge – to afford housing based on the wages of the majority of predominant job types, particularly for young adults starting out, is extremely difficult even with two working adults in a household. Town Council should be dusting off the sustainable community plan which was based on the blueprint of Vision 2020 (The People’s Vision), take into consideration the impact of the last 4 years’ decisions to it, and implement the steps necessary to turn this ship around! All the tools and resources the Town needs to assist are already available. Every decision of Council must be weighed as to the questions: Does this decision positively or negatively impact our goals for economic development? Does it help the municipality deliver services in a fiscally responsible manner? Is it the best decision for the largest majority of our residents/businesses? Then you can assess all of the ideas coming to the table to make sure they are getting us where we need to go.