Minto gets over $400,000 kick-start to main street revitalization

The three downtown areas of Minto are joining forces to attract new business and new investment.

The project is getting $406,800 through the Rural Economic Development Program. The Main Street Minto Revitalization Project will look for ways to attract new investments to the area over the next three years.

A rural Downtown Revitalization Summit will be held in 2010 to discuss ways to enhance the downtowns of Minto and foster economic development.

The goal of the project is to create 165 jobs over the next three years in Palmerston, Harriston and Clifford.

Improving the downtown street­scapes of those communities will help increase pedestrian traffic and encourage residents and tourists to stop and shop in the community.

Goals include:

– creating and retaining jobs in the three downtowns;

– attracting new investment to the area over the next three years;

– holding a rural Downtown Revitalization Summit in 2010 to discuss ways to enhance the downtowns of Minto and foster economic development; and

– enhancing the skills of business owners and their employees.

“This much needed project will help beautify the downtown areas of Clifford, Harriston and Palmerston, bringing new investment and retail opportunities to Minto,” said Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson.

“Renewing interest in our downtown areas will contribute to our local economy, create new jobs and make us even prouder to call Minto home.”

Minto Mayor David Anderson added, “We are truly thrilled to welcome the province as a partner in this exciting project.

“With this support, we will move even closer to our goal in beautifying our communities, drawing new investments and creating jobs.”

The Rural Economic Development Program spends money on community-based projects in three priority areas: revitalized communities and downtowns, enhanced skills training and improved access to health care services.

Since 2003, Ontario has spent $77.5-million in 240 projects through the Rural Economic Development Program.

Wilkinson considered the Norgan Theatre in Palmerston to be a great place to be making such an announcement.

“This [theatre] is a great example of a community coming together and revitalizing an asset that they have, this beautiful theatre that’s been transformed.”

Similarly, he said, the downtowns of the three communities are also assets.

“There’s some very forward thinking people in the Town of Minto who’ve decided we need to do something.”

Wilkinson was in Minto on behalf of Leona Dombrowsky, Ontario Minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs.

“Sometimes people forget the ‘RA’ in OMAFRA stands for Rural Affairs,” he said.

Wilkinson talked about the program, which has been in place for the past five years.

“Many rural communities are using that as a way to spur economic development. One of the things that we’ve realized in rural Ontario is that we’re sitting on a gem.”

Wilkinson said, “There are so many people across this province who live surrounded by concrete and an occasional park, who look for places that they can visit right here in Ontario that are unique and special. They’re particularly looking for unique experiences, and every one of our three downtowns in Minto have their own character.”

He said town officials came together and made a funding application.

The thrust of that application, Wilkinson said was that “In this community we think we actually have a resource that we need to polish up. We need to work together and if we do that, we’re going to be able to create more economic wealth and create local jobs. We’re going to be able to show people what we’re proud of, which is the Town of Minto.

“That’s why I’m delighted to be here to congratulate Minto, because they’ve been successful in receiving money from the RED program.

“The funds will be used to put into action, a plan, created … not in Toronto, not at 1 Stone Road … but right here in Minto.”

The goal is to create 165 new jobs over the next three years in these communities and to retain 346 existing jobs in the businesses that currently exist within the three downtown areas, Wilkinson said.

“Minto believes this can draw in $1.8 million of investment into these three communities.”

He also believes it will create increased confidence in the private businesses within those areas.

“There’s nothing like having something on the go,” Wilkinson said. “It’s always important to have that message, that things are getting better. You can’t come to Palmerston today, and compare it to what it was just a few years ago.”

He pointed to the tremendous community effort to revitalize the theatre and the work on the park.

Each community is unique.

“By combining our efforts, we’re going to create new tourism destination.”

He stressed this is not something that came out of council, but as a result of people coming together.

Mayor David Anderson said one of the things to remember is that this announcement would not have been possible without teamwork.

He said there was a lot of feedback from local business owners and people in the downtowns.

Revitalization committees were established in all three communities.

“They had a lot of input on how they wanted their streets developed … and what they believed was needed to help their downtowns develop and grow.”

He cited the proposed summit for next year, which indicates the type of work that is going on.

He lauded the local chamber of commerce, which has been a strong supporter of the project.