Representatives from the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville’s Economic Development Department presented the results of the recent Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) study at the last council meeting in Merrickville-Wolford.
The BR+E study was undertaken by County staff and community volunteers as one of the initiatives funded by the Rural Economic Development (RED) grant from OMAFRA obtained by the municipality last year.
Over the past few months, the BR+E team have been surveying local businesses to get to know more about the community and learn about the benefits and challenges of operating a business in Merrickville-Wolford. The hope is that the study will help inform council about how to best support current local business and attract new business to the municipality.
The study focused on four main areas: business engagement and collaboration, workforce recruitment, downtown business retention and development and amenities and infrastructure. After analyzing the data, the BR+E team came up with several recommendations in each category, meant to inform an action plan to be identified in the next portion of the BR+E process.
In the business engagement and collaboration category, the findings suggested that the municipality work on hosting regular business networking events, develop more food-based experiences or tours featuring local producers, and establish a new business outreach program and welcome package for the municipality.
In the workforce recruitment category, they suggest that the municipality develop opportunities to engage high school, university and college students to consider employment in the area, and work on creating a database to allow businesses to advertise vacancies and to allow job-seekers to know what is available locally.
In the downtown business retention and development category, the study suggests the establishment of a database, as well as the development of an economic development community profile, that can be distributed to potential investors/businesses.
Finally, looking at the amenities and infrastructure category, the study suggests that the municipality work on improving broadband and fibre internet access, explore options for a centrally located tourist information centre/public washroom facility, and improve signage for public amenities.
Overall, the BR+E study showed that Merrickville-Wolford is a pretty good place to do business. Most business owners were satisfied by the services they receive from the municipality, and many said that the look and feel of Merrickville’s historic downtown enhances their business. The next step in the BR+E process will be to develop a final economic development strategy and annual action/work plans, and then implement and monitor progress.