I am writing in response to an article in the Merrickville-Wolford Times section of the NG Times of July 31, 2019 entitled, “Economic Development Officer resigns”. The article talked about Merrickville’s first Economic Development Officer (EDO) hired in October of 2018. He resigned about the middle of July, 2019 and had produced no report for council as to what he had accomplished over the last two years. A local resident, Dawn Dawson, had wondered what had been accomplished after two years and the expenditure of roughly $100,000 of taxpayers’ money. There was no definitive answer to this question. Merrickville should be so lucky to have only spent $100,000 on their EDO (an extra $98,000 was spent from a provincial grant, for a grand total of about $200,000).
North Grenville has spent between $199,150 and $279,786 in each year for the past six years on the Economic Development department. The cumulative total for the past six years is $1,416,504. I don’t have the specific numbers for years before 2014, but I would guess the cumulative total spent since they started the economic development department would be well over $2 million. I have repeatedly asked at council meetings what economic benefit has been derived from this large budgetary item. You can see the response from the municipality in the minutes and video record of July 9, 2019. The economic development department has produced numerous studies about how to better the local economy, mainly focussed on enhancing tourism through better and more numerous signs and decorative street banners. There were no numbers or statistics provided to prove the benefit from these large yearly expenditures. Why is our municipality spending money on something that has no measurable benefit? Are we getting our money’s worth? Is this department really going to improve the local economy?
Also, why is there duplication of this activity? The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville already spend about $800,000 per year on their economic development department. North Grenville’s part of that based on population should be about $136,000. The $136,000 added to $279,786 equals a grand total of $415,786 of your tax money spent this year on economic development for North Grenville. Most of this expenditure is salaries and benefits.
The best thing that North Grenville can do to encourage economic activity is to minimize the bureaucracy and get your residential and commercial property taxes down to a reasonable level that will attract and retain residents and businesses.