The Hamilton Spectator

Norfolk mayor to head rural developmen­t agency

After ‘tough years’ for municipali­ties, Amy Martin touts regional approach to planning, advocacy


The mayor of Norfolk County has been tabbed to head a non-profit organizati­on that fosters economic co-operation between rural counties in southern Ontario.

Amy Martin was elected chair of the South Central Ontario Region Economic Developmen­t Corporatio­n board of directors during SCOR’s annual general meeting on Feb. 29 at the organizati­on’s Tillsonbur­g headquarte­rs.

“Our focus is on action-oriented economic developmen­t,” SCOR executive director Kimberly Earls told The Spectator, listing workforce training and education, securing infrastruc­ture funding, and supporting industries like manufactur­ing and farming as among the organizati­on’s top priorities.

In a statement, Martin said she would focus on “collaborat­ion and innovative resource planning” between the government­s of Brant, Elgin, Middlesex, Norfolk and Oxford counties, which collective­ly own SCOR.

“The last two years have been tough years for municipali­ties in terms of budget,” Martin said.

“We are taking advantage of regional expertise and resource-sharing to ensure we are providing taxpayers the best bang for their buck while still being smart planners for future growth.”

Martin told The Spectator she took the job to advocate for the needs of the five municipali­ties — which represent one-third of Ontario’s rural population — and amplify Norfolk’s appeal to Ottawa and Queen’s Park for help with infrastruc­ture funding.

SCOR emerged in 2010 as rural municipali­ties coped with manufactur­ing job losses and the decline of the once-lucrative tobacco industry.

The five founding counties banded together to attract new investment to diversify the economy and more persuasive­ly petition upper levels of government.

Today the region counts more than one million year-round residents living on 2.4 million acres, of which 1.5 million is working farmland.

“This region is experienci­ng a lot of growth and a lot of interest, especially post-pandemic, in both residentia­l and industrial,” Earls said.

“We’re seeing a fairly significan­t migration from urban centres into our region. And that’s great, but with it does come some challenges.”

SCOR shares region-specific labour and demographi­c data with workforce planning boards and post-secondary institutio­ns like Fanshawe College — which has four campuses within SCOR’s boundaries — to ensure job training “is viable and needed” by businesses in search of skilled workers, Earls said.

Members also collective­ly advocate for funding for “cross-jurisdicti­onal” infrastruc­ture solutions, such as affordable energy projects, an intercount­y transit system, and maximizing industrial use of the short-line railway between St. Thomas and western Norfolk.

“SCOR was created to look at those regional, large-scale infrastruc­ture requiremen­ts,” Earls said. “And SCOR’s role has been to open the doors for our county partners to build relationsh­ips and to build our case.”

With thousands of farms and agrifood businesses within the five counties, boosting the agricultur­al sector while balancing “competing land pressures” is of great importance, Earls said.

SCOR supports preserving farmland while taking a targeted approach to building on marginal land — such as areas with poor soil or near existing developmen­t — that could support housing without hampering food production.

“We have some of the best land, but there are smaller parcels on individual farms that would be appropriat­e for residentia­l developmen­t or other uses,” Earls said.

 ?? ?? Norfolk County Mayor Amy Martin is the new chair of the South Central Ontario Region Economic Developmen­t Corporatio­n.
Norfolk County Mayor Amy Martin is the new chair of the South Central Ontario Region Economic Developmen­t Corporatio­n.

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