Minto has proved itself ready to attract new investment and industry.
Last week, Minto’s Economic Development Officer Belinda Wick-Graham presented the results of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario’s LETI (Local Economies in Transition) program. In 2008, the Economic Developers Council of Ontario held a series of mock site selection exercises to judge the “investment readiness” of Ontario municipalities. Minto won it its category
Specifications for three mock investment projects included utility requirements and the number of employees – by job classification. Those specifications were distributed to 20 communities across the province with a request to provide the required information within a 10-day period.
Wick-Graham said Minto was in good company with some much larger centres, such as London, Oakville, Orangeville, Thunder Bay, and Brockville.
She said it was basically a two-part process. The first was a request for information.
Following a review of that information, site visits were arranged for consultants to evaluate each community.
Minto’s choice was to attract Project Woodpecker – a 10,000 to 20,000 square foot wood products manufacturing plant employing about 35 people. She said Minto’s was the earliest response for the request for information.
“We had solid, concise, and informative answers … and we would have made it to the short list of communities that applied,” she said.
Wick-Graham said the site selectors said Minto offered a well organized visit and were very hospitable. She added Minto was one of the only communities that provided an itinerary for the day.
“We had shovel-ready land with incentive pricing.”
She said training was covered through Conestoga College, Minto provided political leadership and there was a very knowledgeable utility representation.
She said because of how well the town did, representatives were asked to speak at the Economic Developers Council of Ontario’s 2009 conference.
During that panel discussion Minto spoke about its perspectives and what officials learned during the exercise. Key lessons from the site visit included the importance of building and maintaining relationships.
“All those people are important when you are dealing with site selectors. And don’t forget the small stuff … such as baskets in their rooms and picking them up at their hotel.”
Wick-Graham said there were a number of things that Minto did that other communities did not, but she added there were a number of suggestions for what the community could do the next time.
In terms of the information provided, “We gave them what they were looking for, in the format they asked for, and we responded quickly and followed up.”
She said Mayor David Anderson commented that one of the key lessons is the importance of the corporate call program and that investment attraction is only one component of economic development.
With the economy the way it is, he had noted that it is important to keep the businesses Minto has, plus it identifies suppliers for those businesses.
She said Treasurer Gord Duff stated Minto must look at not only competing with its neighbours, but within Canada, the U.S. and the world.
“It’s a big market and there’s not always a lot of companies to go after.” Wick-Graham said.
She noted that compared to a number of area municipalities, Minto has relatively low development costs – “and definitely the lowest land prices out there.”
She said it is also important to identify target industries, which Minto is in the process of doing.
Wick-Graham noted that LETI had an award for each of the projects applied for.
Wick-Graham said of all the communities in Ontario, Minto won this award, and it gave the town a huge profile at the conference.
People were saying, “It’s the little town that could. They were very impressed by our presentation and our community.” In it’s report, judges stated, “The Town of Minto is composed of the former towns of Harriston and Palmerston, the former village of Clifford, and the surrounding rural area of the former Minto Township.
“Despite its relatively small size (2006 population 8,500) officials in Minto were able to offer us a choice of two industrial properties, one in Harriston and the other in Palmerston, that were both ‘shovel ready’ and featured ‘incentive level’ pricing.
Anderson added this is another indication that Minto is heading in the right direction for economic growth.
Duff said it was a real privilege to be there, and there were a number of cutting edge people there.