The County of Haliburton has awarded the contract for an economic development strategy.

Scott Ovell, director of economic development and tourism, recommended Sexton Harrop Consulting Group get the work during a June 8 committee of the whole meeting.

The cost is $42,300 plus HST and will come from Safe Restart Funds.

In January, Ovell suggested a strategy and council directed him to find a third party to do it.

The County received two qualified responses. Ovell, manager of tourism Tracie Bertrand, and climate change coordinator Korey McKay reviewed them. He said Sexton Harrop Consulting’s proposal, “best met the requirements of the deliverables outlined in the RFP and were ranked the highest amongst all evaluators.”

He added, “In particular SHCG has a strong background working with small rural townships and with organizations within Haliburton County,” such as the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce as well as the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Ovell said staff now plan to begin working immediately with Sexton Harrop Consulting.

“The project will be broken down into three phases and the goal is to have it completed by the end of October 2022,” Ovell said.

Steps will include a look at current realities and a County profile as well as a situational analysis using strengths, opportunities, aspirations and results (SOAR). There will be a public survey and talks with stakeholders followed by a report to council for feedback. They’ll then develop a strategy.

In his initial pitch Jan. 12, Ovell said he’d been hired to develop a more diverse and resilient economy, while still recognizing the importance tourism plays in the Highlands’ continued growth.

He said while there is an overarching tourism plan, the Destination Management Plan that stalled during COVID-19, there isn’t a strategy for the broader economy.

“An economic development strategy is essentially a road map for economic transformation, growth, and yields longterm prosperity for a community,” he said in a report. “It includes action steps that will require the participation of the business community, institutions and citizens.

“While the County has had tremendous success developing and marketing tourism, the challenging realities of today’s economy call for new directions, ideas and approaches to enhance economic growth, attract investment and ensure that opportunity continues to be a significant part of the County’s quality of life.”

Ovell said in an interview it’s about creating a vision and how to get there with a five-year departmental budget and business plan