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Economic development work reviewed at joint meeting in Wellington North

Working together - Economic development officers, from left, Minto’s Belinda Wick-Graham, Wellington County’s Jana Reichert and Wellington North’s April Marshall gave presentations at the joint economic development meeting held in Arthur Jan. 23.  photo by Kris Svela

Economic development work reviewed at joint meeting in Wellington North

by Kris Svela

ARTHUR

Local economic development initiatives can piggyback on similar work being done by Wellington County, said Wellington North business economic manager Dale Small after an evening meeting Jan. 23 at the community centre here.

The meeting was hosted by the township which has been working in conjunction with economic development groups from Minto and Mapleton over the past year. The meeting  attracted about 60 people and covered initiatives taken on by all three municipalities and the county.

Also discussed was doctor recruitment work in Minto and Wellington North to fill an anticipated doctor shortage in the next two years and seniors programs originating out of Mapleton.

“Now that the county economic strategic plan has been approved we will be working locally to ensure our economic development efforts are consistent with the overall strategy,” Small said. “This is not to say we will not have local initiatives that are not included in the county plan, however, where appropriate, we will ensure we are working closely and partnering with the county.”

Economic development updates were provided by Mapleton CAO/clerk Patty Sinnamon who is in charge of economic development in that township, Belinda Wick-Graham, Minto business and economic manager and April Marshall, Wellington North tourism, marketing and promotion manager.

They were joined by county economic development officer Jana Reichert. County council recently approved its economic strategic plan. It’s the first-ever economic plan the county has undertaken.

“That’s our five-year plan, guiding our activities going forward,” Reichert said.

The seniors activity program was initiated by Mapleton in 2008 with funding for three years at $179,000 annually from the Waterloo Wellington LHIN.

It includes senior exercise programs spread throughout the three neighbouring municipalities, along with coffee hours and dinners where seniors can meet. The intent of the program is to keep seniors active and healthy in a bid to “allow seniors to stay at home longer,” Sinnamon said.

The program has become part of the economic strategy now in the planning stages and operates out of the Mapleton Community Health Centre  under coordinator Helen Edwards. The program also offers public meetings with health providers. It has also received funding in the form of free use of municipal facilities.

“Those partnerships provide us with space and volunteers,” Sinnamon said.

She also talked briefly about a new program to assist seniors with homemaking services. Sinnamon said the program is expected to work in conjunction with similar services offered by the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) and is being funded out of surpluses from the seniors program.

“The VON will do the assessment to determine the requirement of the senior,” she said. “We’re living longer so we want to be sure we have healthy, active living for seniors.”

Wellington Health Care Alliance recruitment coordinator Alison Armstrong talked about recruitment efforts to attract doctors to northern Wellington municipalities. She was joined by Dr. Chris Cressey of Palmerston and Dr. John Reaume of Mount Forest. Cressey said recruitment is essential to maintain rural health care.

“This year we’ve got three physicians planning to leave so that’s a crisis,” the doctor said.

According to Cressey potential doctors wanting to relocate to a rural practice are looking for medical centres to locate their practices. They are also looking to work within health care teams that provide support and guidance.

“It’s team-based health they want to work in,” Cressey added.

Armstrong said new doctors interested in rural health care are interested in the many facets of rural practice, including working out of a medical centre with hospital privileges and duties.

She pointed to plans to build a rural health centre adjacent to the Palmerston hospital as a way to improve recruitment efforts.

“If you build it they will come,” Armstrong said.

Small said doctor recruitment plays a central role in economic development efforts to attract new businesses.

“We have a great partnership with the recruitment committee.”

Reichert acknowledged a strong rural health care system is essential to economic development. She noted the study conducted by the county found Wellington has a skilled workforce. However, she added, workforce numbers are low and local workers are mobile, taking jobs outside of Wellington County.

Website improvements

A survey conducted as part of the county plan showed 32 major employers managed to “weather” the economic downturn from 2008 to 2010, Reichert added.

Reichert said the county is working on improvements to its website which could include types of businesses located in Wellington, testimonials from businesses about why they located here and their experience operating in the county, cultural and recreational attractions available, and land inventory for sale in the county’s seven municipalities. The county is also looking at improved signage and possible transit options available to those coming here to live and work.

Wick-Graham said Minto is in the process of conducting cultural mapping to promote local farms and businesses as part of an overall economic development strategy.

Marshall said Wellington North is doing similar work in promoting itself.

“I think every one of these meetings where every municipality gets together is an asset,” said Wellington North Mayor Ray Tout. “The opportunities are out there, we just have to tell the world we have it.”

Mapleton Mayor Bruce Whale also applauded the efforts to combine economic discussions between the three northern municipalities.

“The cooperation I’ve seen and with the county plan, I think we’re a step ahead.”

Vol 46 Issue 05

February 1, 2013

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