Arran-Elderslie considers development officer
Arran-Elderslie is giving serious thought to hiring an economic development officer.
Council heard strong arguments from several people, including Melissa Kanmacher, representative of the Paisley and District Chamber of Commerce, and Ken Cormack, who has been involved with Paisley’s Spruce the Bruce group and the Bruce County regional working group, along with members of council in favour of hiring an economic development officer.
Kanmacher’s message is that economic opportunities abound in Arran-Elderslie.
She worries that economic development is taking place all around and Arran-Elderslie will be left behind if it doesn’t get organized.
She noted that one of Bruce Power’s top priorities is to have 11 suppliers settled in the area. A year ago Bruce Power asked communities to send in available warehouse space to create a list for potential suppliers. Now they are looking for available office space.
“Volunteers are doing that in Paisley. Chesley and Tara will need to be informed so they can take advantage of this opportunity as well,” Kanmacher told Arran-Elderslie council Monday.
She said Bruce Power is also committed to supporting communities to be family friendly and she believes they will offer financial support to projects that improve the quality of life for community members.
She argued that Arran-Elderslie is poised to become the next area for growth but wants to know what the municipality is doing to promote its unique features.
“We need the expertise of an economic development person . . . we need the expertise of someone else [to] sell our community, gather up what we want to do and sell it,” she said
Coun. Peter Steinacker said the community needs someone to sell its positive features. He noted that there are several municipalities in Huron and Grey counties with community development officers.
“We would have a lot more clout if we had an economic development person,” said Steinacker, who argued that “you have to spend money to attract money.”
Arran-Elderslie had applied for a Rural Economic Development (RED) grant that could be used for economic development officer but was turned down.
Cormack who said the municipal website needs to be updated. It is something that creates a powerful first impression and if Arran-Elderslie is lagging in terms of a website and social media he worries that younger people might look elsewhere if they can’t readily find the information they are looking for.
“Establishing an inventory of residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural properties that are available to buy or rent will be critical as growth related to Bruce Power refurbishment begins to unfold,” he said.
He said he feels some uncertainty regarding the school in Paisley that is stifling growth in Paisley.
“There has been lots of real estate activity but it has not resulted in an increase of enrolment at the school so far. While it is important for Paisley to attract new residents of all ages, the future of the school depends on our ability to attract families with young children,” Cormack said.
Mayor Paul Eagleson agreed that it’s time to look seriously at hiring an economic development officer.
“It needs to be explored and explored very soon, now, in my opinion,” said Eagleson.
But Eagleson still has some unanswered questions about the role of an economic development officer and council’s expectations of such a person. How that position would dovetail with the work already being done by Bruce County economic development officials is another question he has.
“I’m fully aware of the good work that the county economic development is doing for all communities in Bruce County,” Eagleson said.
He said the next step is to have Bruce County officials come to Arran-Elderslie to explain what the county does for Arran-Elderslie and what types of tasks an economic development officer could do for Arran-Elderslie.
“There’s no point, in my opinion, of creating more duplication. The timing is certainly right. If we don’t make a decision soon maybe we’ll get left behind,” Eagleson said.