Economic development strategic session shaping plans for future of Centre Wellington

ELORA – Centre Wellington is looking to the future to determine the best way of promoting local economic development within the community.
The Centre Wellington strategic plan open house was held at the Lighthouse Restaurant at the Grand River Raceway on Nov. 7.
Nancy Johnston of McSweeny and Associates said quite a bit of information was accumulated from the community.
Themes generated to explore were posted on walls at the open house for public review – and a chance to offer more ideas.
Johnston noted that earlier in the day a focus group/working session had 39 participants from businesses, town staff and others.
Centre Wellington economic development officer Patricia Rutter added “to this point we’ve done public surveys, focus groups and one-on-one interviews.”
This includes 171 online responses and 54 focus groups.
“The questions and comments grew out of those responses,” said Johnston.
The open house allowed members of the public to provide further input.
Rutter stated that following the open house, the consultants will take the information gathered “and distill it into a strategy with actions.”
“We are anticipating that will probably go to council for final approval – probably by the end of February 2019,” said Rutter, who added she expects a draft will likely get to council before that time.
Topics discussed at the meeting include the following.

Overall goal

The goal of the work thus far is to develop strategic actions as a base for a Centre Wellington Economic Development Strategic Action Plan.

Creating a competitive climate for business

– Is the township friendly towards businesses currently operating in the community? If not, what can the township do to become business friendly?
– What does Centre Wellington (and its partners) need to do to, or continue doing, in order for the township to retain existing businesses and, if required, help them expand?
– Is the township lacking infrastructure to support business growth? If so, what actions need to be taken to build the required infrastructure?

Becoming more ready for investment

– What infrastructure, assets and resources does the Centre Wellington need to best meet the requirements of potential investors?
– As there are limited spaces for businesses to operate in Centre Wellington, what does the township need to do to solve its land issues?
– What is the one thing the township needs to do in order to be ready for and to support investment in new or existing businesses?

Planning for sustainable, distinct downtown cores

– Are there specific actions needed to improve, upgrade or expand strategic pieces of infrastructure in Elora and Fergus?
– To help attract investment to the community, is there anything that can be done within the township’s urban centres to improve the community’s overall quality of place?
– What types of businesses are missing that will improve the mix of commercial cores of Elora and Fergus? What if anything can be done to attract these businesses to Elora and Fergus.

Communications and conveying clear message

– How can the township better communicate its economic development messages to local businesses and residents?
– How can Centre Wellington better engage with the business community in order to build a stronger economy?

Building tourism arts, history and culture

– What can the township do to support and grow the tourism sector?
– What infrastructure needs to be in place to attract tourists and keep them in Centre Wellington for longer periods of time (overnight)?
– How can the township improve the arts and culture sector?
– Are there opportunities where the township needs to make investments for the arts and culture sector?

Supporting agriculture and agri-business

– What, if anything, does the township need to do to help support the agricultural sector?
– Are there opportunities to build on its assets and develop partnerships to help strengthen the agricultural sector in Centre Wellington?
– What types of agri-business can be encouraged to expand, start or relocate in Centre Wellington?
– Are there policies that should be in place to encourage on-farm businesses?