The Haliburton County Development Corporation (HCDC) is using the ageold mantra ‘if you build it, they will come’ while preparing to move to a new location that executive director, Patti Tallman, says will bring several services together under one roof.

‘The Link’ will be a “go-to place for new and existing entrepreneurs to find the resources they need to start, sustain, relocate, and grow,” Tallman noted.

The space, located beside Haliburton Timber Mart on County Road 21 in Haliburton, will house all HCDC operations, including its business incubator, the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, the Arts Council, the County’s economic development and tourism staff, and services from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

“We’ve really seen this concept work elsewhere in Ontario, some of our [Community Futures Ontario] colleagues in Belleville and Kawartha Lakes have launched new spaces with big partnerships, and we really see the benefits,” Tallman said. “This is about creating greater awareness in the community of who we are and what we do.”

Since 1985, HCDC has approved more than $88 million in loans to support hundreds of business and non-profit endeavours, and a further $9.7 million in local community economic development initiatives. Staff provide free guidance to start-ups, assist with developing a business plan, financial projections, expansion and more, Tallman said.

Through its incubator, located beside Dysart town hall on Mountain Street, the organization has nurtured 10 startups and assisted more than 15 other developing businesses and entrepreneurs since its launch in 2010. The co-working space provides access to high-speed internet, personal working spaces, private offices, and a meeting room for operations without a home base of their own.

“There are a lot of people working from home up here, who are looking for opportunities to connect with other entrepreneurs in a professional setting to have meetings, or even just for networking. The incubator space has been a great way for us to find out who’s working at the dead ends of all the dirt roads in our County,” said Heather Reid, HCDC program and operations coordinator.

“This move is going to bolster our incubator, allow us to get more people in and connect them with one another,” she added. Reid noted HCDC worked with eight businesses through its incubator in 2022.

Kat Schouten, who oversees operations at the incubator, told The Highlander the move brings several benefits.

“Just the speed of developing ideas – if someone who’s working in a co-working space has an idea, they can go directly to the chamber, they can go upstairs and have a conversation with one of our specialists. There’s an opportunity for us to get things off the ground so much quicker than we can right now,” Schouten said.

ACM Designs and North of Seven Custom Carpentry are leading the redevelopment of the space, which used to house Patient News. Tallman said the ground floor will be home to the incubator, the Chamber’s operations, and County staff. It will boast five rentable office spaces and eight coworking desks. Upstairs will feature offices for HCDC and BDC staff, and a boardroom.

Tallman said renovations should be finished in the fall, with HCDC planning to unveil the space at its annual general meeting Oct. 4.

“We’re thrilled about this expansion. I think it sets up HCDC for years to come,” Tallman noted.