Looking at Haliburton through different eyes
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | June 27, 2017|
Sometimes it takes a different point of view to identify strengths and weaknesses in a community, and Dysart is hoping for that feedback when a diverse group of volunteers from the Township of Georgian Bay visit the area late July.
“Through this program you get this tremendous insight from another community and you establish a relationship with that community as well,” said Heather Candler, an agriculture and rural economic development advisor for the ministry of agriculture, food and rural affairs, about the First Impressions Community Exchange (FICE) Program.
Candler has been helping municipalities in Haliburton County and beyond to develop strategies that will improve economic development.
FICE was introduced to the province in 2005 and is a popular tool among rural communities in Ontario.
More than 200 FICE projects have taken place. Dysart has participated in the program before and will be sending a team of nine to Georgian Bay in early August.
Dysart’s economic development committee discussed strategies about economic stimulation and the retention of young workers and entrepreneurs during its meeting in May. They decided participating in FICE would generate new ideas to add to their strategy.
“There is an appetite here to see businesses grow,” Andrea Roberts, deputy reeve, said at the meeting. “We need to do what we can to support businesses wanting to come to Haliburton.”
Roberts will be one of Dysart’s representatives during the visit to Georgian Bay.
The newest addition to the committee, Kelly Mitchell, president of KWMitchell Consulting Services and a former chief of staff at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, recently moved back to the county with his wife.
He said he was excited to be back, but noticed much of Haliburton looks exactly the same.
“Much of the town, and the downtown area, looks almost exactly the same as it did in the 70s,” Mitchell said.
He added many young families and entrepreneurs might not be aware of the opportunities available in Haliburton.
“I’m not sure if they’re looking at Haliburton as a place that’s open for business.”
The Township of Georgian Bay is looking for a top-to-bottom assessment as well, including reviews of Honey Harbour, MacTier and Port Severn, said Lynn Racicot, the township’s communications and economic development officer.
She added Dysart was a good match for Georgian Bay because of their fluctuations in seasonal resident populations.
“The communities have similar economic bases of tourism, retail and construction,” she told The Highlander.
Laurie Kennard, Georgian Bay’s chief administrative officer (CAO), said people can take for granted the things that attract people to the community.
“Or you may be unaware of aspects of your community that may not appear welcoming in the eyes of outsiders,” she said.
While some of the feedback each municipality will receive might fall in line with long-term strategies, some might result in immediate changes.
“Sometimes it’s about more welcome beds in front of the town sign, or having more garbage cans in certain areas … it can be very simple things that aren’t costly that make a huge difference,” she said.
A report from Tamara Wilbee, Dysart’s CAO, says the other township’s feedback will be presented to the committee late August.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.