Busy year for economic, community development in Minto in 2023

MINTO – It may be a small town, but Minto was bustling with community activity in 2023, according to a year-end report from the municipality’s economic and community development department.

The department hosted or facilitated a total of 95 community events last year, an increase from the previous years’ total of 88.

“I think people were blown away last year, when they found out that there were 88 events that we either organized or assisted/facilitated in organizing,” economic and community development director Belinda Wick-Graham told council on March 19.

“And this year, it is now 95.”

Municipal events in 2023 included a newcomers’ welcome reception, 10 Minto Makers’ Markets, a Celebrate our Downtown’s: 1st Impressions Community Exchange and the popular Fire and Ice Family New Year’s Eve celebration.

Another 18 events were held under the banner of the municipality’s three downtown committees: Clifford Connects, Harriston Rising and All Aboard Palmerston.

Major downtown events included Palmerston’s second Raleway Festival, Cliffords’ Carnival Celebration and Harriston’s Halloween Haunt, in addition to various seasonal celebrations in all three communities.

More town-facilitated events were hosted by local groups such as the Minto Farmer’s Market, Minto Chamber of Commerce, Palmerston Railway Heritage Museum, Minto Youth Action Committee and the LaunchIt Business Exploration Centre.

Wick-Graham cautioned council not to expect the number of town-facilitated events to keep rising.

“We would like to note that this is not sustainable and it’s something we’re looking to get a better handle on and support groups, but maybe in a bit lesser way,” she explained.

A resident attraction campaign dubbed “Move to Minto” won a 2023 award from the Economic Developers Council of Ontario, Wick-Graham noted.

A digital advertising operation connected with the campaign generated about 1.5 million ad placements resulting in 45,000 online interactions.

“We also had over 20,000 views on our Move to Minto video and then, later in the year, we started our downtown business attraction campaign, which will wrap up in June but is going quite well,” Wick-Graham pointed out.

The economic and community development department also helped to connect area employers and workers through involvement with two job fairs, the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo-Wellington’s First Jobs campaign, the Minto-Mapleton Health Care Recruitment Committee and the Northern Wellington Jobs and Housing Portal initiative.

“So, really busy on that front,” Wick-Graham commented.

“The PitchIt Business Plan Competition was another success with over $18,000 (in prizes) given out … We continued our corporate call program, visiting major employers every quarter with our economic development committee.”

Wick-Graham added the department also administered Community Improvement Program grants for local businesses and land sales in the Palmerston Industrial Park.

In conjunction with the local chamber of commerce, the town operates the LaunchIt Business Exploration Centre.

Clifford Rotary Celebration Square was officially opened during the Clifford Connects Carnival Celebration in 2023. Advertiser file photo


“We had a really busy year with LaunchIt as you can see from the numbers here,” said business development coordinator Caitlyn Turton.

“We are celebrating our nine-year anniversary. We had 439 attendees to the facility and 49 customized business assistances.

“We have quite a few tenants and we have a lot of new action happening at LaunchIt.”

The business centre has also rolled out new Try-It Retail and secret shopper programs, Turton added.

In addition, the Digital Service Squad program operated through LaunchIt helped 131 local businesses access $327,500 in grants to assist with online operations and the chamber of commerce participated in 11 grand openings for new local businesses, Turton pointed out.

Marketing and community development coordinator Erin Raftis told council the town’s three downtown committees were very active in 2023.

“Harriston Rising had a bunch of events through the year, starting out with the chili cook off and we had our Harrison Street Party, which was a lot of fun like always. Halloween haunt continues to be a huge success and a quick sell out,” she noted.

Raftis added a new mural on the Eric Cox Wholesale building was among the local beautification efforts in 2023.

All Aboard Palmerston “also had another big year,” she said.

“We had lots of good events like Tiny Trains Travel the World, Light Up the Park and new this year, we did the Rockin’ Old Christmas Dinner and Dance, which was a business social Christmas party, which went over really well.”

Raftis said the Fire and Ice event on New Year’s Eve kicked off the celebrations for the Town of Minto’s 25th anniversary and was “a nice end to the year.

“A big project this year in Palmerston was definitely the poppy project on the Old 81 train, which was led by our beautification committee.

“There were tons of people involved and over 2,000 poppies crocheted … it was very well received and everyone was super excited to keep crocheting poppies this year, so expect that to be even bigger as we go on.”

Raftis said department staff worked with the Clifford Connects Committee and the Harriston Historical Society on events, such as a 150km walking challenge and historical scavenger hunt, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the Village of Clifford.

Minto’s Fire and Ice Family New Year’s Eve celebration in Palmerston kicked off celebrations for the town’s 25th anniversary celebrations in 2024. Advertiser file photo


Other events in Clifford included the annual carnival and several pop-up Minto Makers’ Markets in the newly-created Clifford Rotary Celebration Square.

Wick-Graham said the railway museum in Palmerston had its “biggest year since we’ve been involved,” with over 1,800 visitors and over $4,000 in donations raised to kickstart a historic caboose restoration project.

Raftis said the Minto Farmers Market had another solid year.

“Attendance has been up since COVID, so it’s good to see people coming back out to the market,” she said, adding an estimated 3,700 people attended the Saturday morning markets, which run between June and September.

In March, the new Town of Minto Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee began holding monthly meetings, Wick-Graham told council.

“They hosted four cultural events, three educational events and five guest speakers,” said Wick-Graham.

“This has been a very active group doing great work … (it) really is leading the charge for rural communities in the area,” she added.

Raftis noted Minto social media accounts gained nearly 300 followers over the past year.

“So we have an active following online, which is great for our promotions downtown. And as you can see, we manage 17 different social media accounts, so you can find all the good information we talked about there,” she explained.

“Our social media is the envy of many places,” Wick-Graham observed.

“I just want to say that you guys are amazing,” said councillor Ron Elliott.

“I’m on the OSUM (Ontario Small Urban Municipalities) committee and you guys are head and shoulders above anything we have there and probably anywhere in Ontario.”

Deputy mayor Jean Anderson said, “You guys were the envy of most councils and communities, I think, in Ontario, with the excellence that you provide.

“We’re here to support you, so keep it up. You’re doing a great job.”