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Economic growth may require joint effort, two northern municipalities hear

by Kris Svela

MOUNT FOREST - Economic development efforts in Wellington North and the Town of Minto could benefit from each other. 

That was the message members of the economic development committees from both municipalities heard at their first joint meeting last week.

“I think we should be proud of what we in Wellington County and the northern tip of Wellington County have,” Wellington North Mayor Ray Tout told those attending the meeting on Oct. 19 at the sports complex in Mount Forest.

“I guess we can say we don’t tout ourselves enough.”

Wellington North business and economic manager Dale Small said the meeting was designed to learn more about economic development efforts in the county and those undertaken by the two neighboring municipalities.

“What we hope is that this is the first partnership meeting of economic development committees of Minto and Wellington,” Small said

County Warden Chris White said the work already done by the two committees in promoting local attractions and business should be acknowledged. The warden said greater cooperation in economic development between the county and its seven municipalities is needed.

“You guys are ahead of us at the county,” the warden said. “The county doesn’t want to take over economic development, we want to facilitate and move on.”

White said he would encourage stronger working arrangements on economic development between the county and municipal  levels.

“We should work  to support your economic development because if an industry is brought here we all benefit,” he said.

Presentations by Jana Reichert of the Waterloo-Wellington Community Futures Development Corporation and Carol Simpson of the Workforce Planning Board, noted the county has emerged stronger from the 2008 economic downturn.

Reichert presented findings from a Wellington County study taken from 2006 to 2009 which indicates that job growth is expected to continue. The study found that in the county the greatest growth has been in the manufacturing sector with an estimated growth of 1,318 people during the period. In the health care sector job growth increased by 642 and agriculture by 634.

In Wellington North the labour force working in the business, finance and administrative sector grew by 111 people, while natural and applied sciences grew by 74 people and art, culture and recreation grew by 22 people. Manufacturing jobs grew by 212 and health care jobs by 94.

Similar figures for Minto showed 36 new jobs in information and culture, 113 in agriculture and 150 new jobs in manufacturing.

Reichert said businesses are optimistic about the future with some 75 per cent predicting an increase in new customers and 69 per cent expecting increases in revenue.

Simpson said companies are also looking for more skilled workers.

“The demand for general labor is dropping dramatically in comparison to skilled labour. It’s a very positive sign,” she added. “We’re looking at a very healthy chunk of your revenue coming from the manufacturing sector.”

Simpson  said consumers are looking for products produced locally and are moving away from products from countries such as China.

“The growth we see is in the small and medium size businesses that have control locally,” she said. “From a labour perspective we’re seeing a steady increase.”

In agriculture crop production remains, “steady and strong,” Simpson added. “Where we are seeing issues is in animal production where we’re not seeing the growth we would expect to see.”

Simpson urged committee members to look at new opportunities for economic development to create jobs on a smaller scale.

“You’re not going to get the next Toyota [plant] so you’re going to have to be creative.”

She said greater effort should be taken to keep residents, particularly young people, from moving away to find job opportunities.

“A lot of young people and parents don’t realize the opportunities that are here in their backyard,”

Minto Business and Economic Manager Belinda Wick-Graham said the meeting was an important first step to realizing how economic development efforts are not confined to one municipality. She said Minto will host the next joint meeting.

 

 

October 28, 2011

 
 

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