The County of Haliburton is continuing to work on an economic development strategy, launching a survey Oct. 11.

The County hired Strexer Harrop Consulting Group (SHCG), based in Bridgenorth, in June to develop a five-year strategy for the municipality. Director of economic development and tourism, Scott Ovell, brought the idea to council last January, securing just under $50,000 for the plan from Safe Restart Funds.

“An economic development strategy will create a road map for economic transformation and growth, with the goal of yielding long-term prosperity for the County,” Ovell said.

He added it will include 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 the opportunity continues to be a significant part of the County’s quality of life,” Ovell said in unveiling the survey on the County’s website and various online platforms, including

SHCG put together the survey to help the municipality “actively monitor changes taking place within our community, and ensure we work hard to support the local economy,” Ovell said.

He added responses will help develop ongoing COVID-19 recovery efforts to support the business community and, “provide vital information we can use to create initiatives and programs to support businesses and our local economy.”

In addition to background information, the survey asks questions such as: in the past three years, has your opinion about doing business in our community changed; how would you describe the current economy in Haliburton County; what should Haliburton County focus on to grow jobs and the economy; and what is Haliburton County’s biggest economic challenge for the next five years?

Ovell said SHCG has a strong background working with small rural townships, such as City of Kawartha Lakes, and with organizations within Haliburton County, such as the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce.

He said the first phase of the project will include a look at current realities, an economic profile of the County as well as a situational analysis using strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results (SOAR). There will be the public survey and talks with stakeholders followed by a report to council early in the new year for their feedback.

After getting input from council, the project will move into the second phase where the strategy will begin to be developed based on the feedback and information collected during phase one.

In his initial pitch Jan. 12, 2021, 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 implementation of the Destination Management Plan was impacted by COVID-19, and there currently isn’t a strategy for the broader economy.

Ovell said in an interview it’s about creating a vision with council and the community and identifying how to achieve that collaborative vision with a five-year departmental budget and business plan.

The survey can be found at wadein. under the economic development strategy project page.