Puslinch wants special meeting on IPM themes and contributions

Though wanting to be supportive, some Puslinch councillors are curious as to the final local cost of participating in the 2016 International Plowing Match in Minto

On Sept. 2, Puslinch communications associate/customer service representative Marissa Herner updated council on discussions on ways individual municipalities within Wellington County may be participating in the event.

She has attended meetings over the past few months as planning begins for the industry and entertainment tent for the event.

“The tent gives each municipality an opportunity to design and man their own booth.”

Her discussion with council was to look at how to best represent the township.

She said some of the main goals are to engage with the public, educate and develop relationships

During previous matches, local municipalities were responsible for designing and staffing booths at the event.

In past years municipal displays have been more of a poster-theme describing what encompasses each municipality.

“This year the direction has changed and we’ve decided to make each municipality’s booth a more interactive and engaging experience rather than just a visual walk by.”

Herner said “this is where I’m seeking your advice.”

She spoke on various aspects of what the township could consider – from theme, attracting/approaching local industry participation, sourcing local talent for entertainment and a potential budget.

“In terms of theme, every municipality is looking for a theme derived from something unique from their municipality.”

Herner used the example of Mapleton Township.

“Since they have the iconic Drayton Festival Theatre, they are making their booth an experience visitors can walk through and try on costumes, get makeup done and things which follow the unique theatre theme.”

Herner suggested thoughts Puslinch council might want to consider include the Aberfoyle Antique Market and the Aberfoyle Farmers’ Market.

However she did note the tent will host a “live” market for all municipalities to showcase their markets.

Herner explained the goal of the theme is something that visitors of the tent can interact with. She hoped to get some feedback from council on a proposed theme “that really encapsulates the township to visitors.”

In terms of approaching local businesses/industries, Herner said each municipality has been asked to approach their local businesses.

The businesses would appear in the tent each day to advertise themselves.

She noted there is no financial compensation for the businesses, but rather it is a marketing opportunity.

She then asked which local businesses the township might approach.

Municipalities are also being asked to source local talent for the industry and tent.

She said each municipality has been asked to compile a list of their local musical entertainment.

The approach would be similar to that of businesses in which the entertainers would be responsible to make appearances in the tent throughout the match.

Herner suggested council might want to consider what musical talent best represents the municipality.

In addition, Herner noted that Wellington County has requested each municipality consider what would be a reasonable financial contribution.

The money would cover all that is required for their municipal booth.

At the same time, Herner said a goal is to ensure that there is cohesion amongst all the municipal booths.  

“It’s a year (away), but it’s coming up shortly.”

Councillor Ken Roth asked for a timeline for budget and ideas.

Herner said meetings are about every month-and-a-half and generally those involved represent economic development from the other municipalities.

“The idea is to have the ball rolling in terms of preparation leading up to the next meeting.”

Roth stated this is something that would have to come under the township’s budget for 2016.

Councillor Wayne Stokley agreed that this has to come under the budget process because that would affect what the township would do for the venue. At the same time, he said there are some very talented people within Puslinch.

“In addition we have some very unique restaurants … perhaps there could be something interactive in terms of food tasting  … or a cook off … and utilize the talents of those restaurants.”

He believed council should spend additional time discussing the matter because the money will influence what the township will do.

Councillor Susan Fielding concurred that there is a lot of talent in Puslinch.

As to possible themes, Fielding noted Puslinch is becoming well-known for its equine industry.

Councillor Matthew Bulmer first commented on former Reeve Archie McRobbie who would introduce himself as “Reeve of gravel pits and groundhogs.”

Bulmer said the township has come a long way since then. He noted that Puslinch is home to the first tree nursery of Wellington County’s Green Legacy Program.

Recognizing gravel pits, Bulmer stressed these are part of the transportation industry and the township is centred on two provincial highways and home to large and busy trucking centres.

Mayor Dennis Lever also noted one of the township’s unique attributes is the Donkey Sanctuary – but also Bryan’s Farm Supply.

“We have some very unique opportunities to ask these people if they want to contribute their time and resources to this.”

He said one also needs to considered whether these businesses see some benefit in participation as well.

He anticipates a special meeting of council will be required to pin down a theme.

During a later discussion following a financial request from the county economic development committee regarding funding for a business retention and expansion study, Lever said, “I was a bit surprised by this.”

“I attend the economic development meetings at the county and I remember a general discussion and had no idea it was coming at this pace and that we’d have to come up with this money.”

Lever said he is going to be asking the county if it would consider a contribution program for some of these requests.

He used the example of the International Plowing Match.

“When this came up at county council it did not include this type of content or the responsibilities down the road.”

He noted this was being billed as the “county contribution.”

“I am happy to contribute time, within limits, but we’re starting to stretch this out and we’re a pretty small community with limited resources.”

He suggested there may be communities able to respond better, but for Puslinch it could mean significant financial stress and staff time.