by Deron Johnston
In a recent conversation I had, the discussion centered around ways to increase economic development activity in North Grenville. The municipality is already pursuing different projects and initiatives through their Economic Development Department, and the results seem to be mostly positive. However, Economic Development falls under the Planning and Development Department, which has only one director and that sometimes means that the resources needed aren’t always easily accessible, or that things can take longer than anticipated.
One possible solution to this situation is to create an Economic Development Corporation. An EDC is an incorporated, not-for-profit corporation, that is typically dedicated to the promotion and economic growth of a specified geographical area. These corporations are found across Canada with many of them here in Ontario in places like Kingston, London, Bay of Quinte (Belleville and area), Burlington and Sault Ste. Marie. These corporations can also represent more than one municipality, as in the case of Bay of Quinte (QEDC) which represents City of Belleville, City of Quinte West (formerly Trenton) and the Municipality of Brighton.
These corporations can pursue, not only business attraction and investment attraction opportunities, but can also be the marketing organization for other sectors, such as tourism. They can act as the key support mechanism for the retention and expansion of existing businesses. These organizations are governed by a board of directors, which often includes business leaders and one or more members of municipal council. They have specialized, paid staff looking after the day to day operations in areas like business development, marketing, communications, business retention and even workforce development.
This particular type of organization might be very appealing to North Grenville for a few reasons. The first would be that, if North Grenville is successful in acquiring the former Kemptville College, they, ideally, should have a separate non-profit organization to oversee the operations. An EDC would be a perfect fit for this because of its strength in areas like business and investment attraction. The second reason is that an EDC could also give a strong promotional boost to, and help with, coordinating tourism in the North Grenville area. Finally, an EDC could help grow the local food industry by gathering the different local food assets together and supporting them organizationally and with marketing. They could also help attract other local food assets to the area that may be missing from the value chain.
Though not always perfect, these organizations typically get results in areas where municipalities lack the resources and expertise. Though often connected to their local municipal government, they don’t have to experience the same restrictions and red tape that municipal staffs encounter. Because of these factors, EDCs can be more nimble and react more quickly than the municipalities they work with.
North Grenville has its own Economic Development Advisory Committee that is supposed to make recommendations to council on matters of Economic Development. Maybe one of the members of that committee will read this and bring a motion forward at their next meeting to explore the possibility of starting an Economic Development Corporation for North Grenville. Even having a discussion about it would be a positive step.