‘Inode’ Implements Comprehensive Development Plan
Inode Estrie is a development initiative that started in a tiny town with a population of 450 people. A town so small you could count its’ citizens precisely. Economic development in small, rural towns is often a challenge. Unless one finds a vein of gold nearby, chances are good that industry is not going to come knocking where there is no skilled employee base. Hence, citizens of smaller towns must travel to find employment when self employment is not an option. For those unable to afford a car, we can imagine where one’s situation goes from there.
Small towns are sometimes small for reasons that are not entirely positive. Towns isolated from industry and employment often have low rents that attract people with low incomes, but then serves to isolate them further from educational, social and financial opportunities that could help them improve their financial outlook. Youth are often forced to leave in order to study or find employment, further decreasing a town’s population and, over time, decreasing the percentage of high income earners in favour of those who are elderly, under-employed or unemployed. This in turn decreases tax revenues for a town that may not have the population and industry base to adequately meet their tax requirements.
This is an oversimplified assessment, but provides the context in which many people find themselves cut off from resources to better themselves, be it through education or better employment. Towns in this situation are often as motivated as their citizens to turn the situation around through development, but it is sometimes easier said than done. The old adage ‘You need money to make money’ may hold a great deal of truth.
Enter Inode Estrie, a local development initiative that began in the small, rural town of Sainte-Camille, which had a declining population problem and sought to establish new residents in its’ territory. The town has recently grown to a population of 500 from 450 in the course of one year. There are tangible examples of Inode Estrie initiatives that have accounted for newcomers purchasing homes in the community.
The initiative has become a three year, regional demographic development initiative funded by the Eastern Townships’ Youth Forum and the Regional Conference of Elected Representatives. The scope has widened and Inode Estrie will now target 18 pilot municipalities in the Townships’ 6 RCM’s by 2013, all of which will benefit from the support staff of Inode Estrie and local RCM’s. Stanstead submitted its’ application to become a pilot municipality, which was accepted in February, 2011.
The first step will be for the town to carry out a needs assessment and tailor their development plan to target both the strengths and weaknesses Stanstead faces in its’ bid to grow and improve its population and resources. This stage has been completed. Aspects to be targeted are the retention of local youth; education and employment of single mothers; growth of local industry and efforts to move local employment dependency away from the granite industry; attraction of new residents; the development of both downtown cores and the waterfront; the promotion of local businesses; and the architectural restoration of the downtown core. Also to be targeted are the strengths of Stanstead, such as the historical and architectural heritage, the vicinity to the border and the Tomifobia River, to name a few.
The plan is comprehensive and tailored to address factors identified as relevant through research and census data pertaining to local demographics. The chair committee has already drawn up its’ plan, which will be submitted to municipal council in October for their thoughts and feedback. The Inode Estrie program will run for three years and will consist of sub-committees that will each target specific initiatives.