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County officials visit to put a names to faces for local municipalities

by David Meyer

MAPLETON TWP. - Wellington County officials are making the rounds of Wellington municipalities, hoping to generate good will, understanding and to help give everyone a chance to meet county officials.

They rolled into Mapleton on Dec. 13 to make a presentation to the council there. Warden Chris White said in an interview prior to the meeting that he and staff had been to Guelph-Eramosa and Minto for a similar meeting, and he met a councillor who told him, “I’ve never met a warden before.”

White said, “That’s not right.”

He added the idea is county and lower tier staff need to become familiar with each other and see how they can better work together.

White added the county is becoming interested in economic development issues and Jana Reichert, of the Waterloo Wellington Community Futures Development Corporation, was also part of the group, and would present some statistics councillors might find interesting about business.

White told council the group is on a “good will tour.”

He explained the county is working now on economic development and hopes to attract business to the area. He added no matter which municipality gets a business, everyone else benefits, too, because the county takes over 60% of the municipal tax bill.

He said it is time to get a profile together of Wellington that can be offered to prospective employers considering a move to southern Ontario.

He noted Mapleton was in the process of forming its own economic development committee and said, “If you’re started, we won’t interfere, but maybe we can help. We all know, as a lower tier municipality, you don’t have any money.”

White estimated lower tier municipalities could “spend $40 million - and just be where we should.”

Reichert gave a presentation on the population, prospects, and possible problems and advantages for Wellington County. She noted in Mapleton 54% of the population is under age 35 and “We’re not a transient community.”

She said every county municipality has a greater population growth rate than the provincial rate, and added, “The quality of life is seen as particularly high.”

She noted Mapleton is the most rural of Wellington municipalities and agriculture grew by 16% between 2006 and 2009. She noted in particular there is a prospect for agricultural products for the “ethnic” market.

When it comes to business, she said a survey indicated there are three major complaints by employers. She said there is a shortage of skilled labour, there is a shift away from general labour, the taxes are high, and there are cost pressures for such things as gasoline, other fuels, and hydro.

She added the strengths are, as one businessman put it, “We are close to everything, but far enough away.”

She said being close to major populations is a major strength for the area.

Weaknesses include no public transit, a lack of local food options, a lack of branding and a lack of cohesion between the upper and lower tier governments.

Reichert added household debt in Wellington is too high, but there were signs in November the economy picked up with people spending for Christmas and more jobs in retail and health care.

She added there is a chance of a resurgence in manufacturing because there appears to be a slowing of China’s economy as costs increase there, and manufacturing might be shifting to the southern United States. When that part of the continent is working, Canadian exports can do well.

She noted that in southern Ontario 48 companies are seeking placement of students from Conestoga College, another good sign.

Councillor Andy Knetsch noted there is an absence of skilled labour,and asked why Canada is not importing people from Europe who have English as a second language.

White said, “That’s the reason why we’re doing this. It’s a pretty basic item. There’s a lot of businesses out there that need people.”

He said informing colleges and universities of what skills are going to be needed would allow them to offer the right courses. That, along with recruiting overseas, could halt the shortage of skilled workers.

But, White said, some things go beyond core municipal services.

“We’re trying to step up and work with businesses.” He cited a recent job fair held in his municipality in Marden that attracted 200 people.

Mayor Bruce Whale told council Reichert is one of those assigned to the new county economic development committee.

White added, “She will report back.”

County chief administrative officer Scott Wilson introduced all the department heads, and said, “All of us at the county are very proud of what we do.”

All department heads were given a brief time to introduce themselves and explain their roles.

When that was completed, councillor Neil Driscoll asked if Mapleton could use the county’s human resources department to help the township. Several municipalities are looking at such things as performance reviews and needs in hiring.

Andrea Lawson said the county would be pleased to help in that area “within time and staff limits.” She added county staff had done similar work in the past for municipalities “and we hope to do it in the future.”

 

 

December 30, 2011

 
 

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