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Driving economic development in Northumberland County

Posted on Friday July 26, 2019
Hon. Kim Rudd
Hon. MPP Kim Rudd

NORTHUMBERLAND Jul 25, 2019 — The Northumberland Central Chamber of Commerce hosted its first business breakfast meeting with a focus on economic development in Northumberland County.

Local initiatives, objectives, challenges and opportunities impacting ongoing economic development in the community were discussed at The Mill restaurant and pub on July 11.

The need to attract a skilled workforce, provide education and employment opportunities in the region, and the need for affordable housing were key issues.

Northumberland-Peterborough South MP Kim Rudd, who was joined by her provincial counterpart, MPP David Piccini, and Dan Borowec, the director of economic development and tourism for Northumberland County, was the first to address these issues.

While she spoke to some of the ongoing challenges, Rudd focused first on the positives — noting that Canada has the lowest unemployment rate in a generation.

“We are the only G7 country that has trade agreements with all G7 countries,” she said, pointing out that trade directly affects Cobourg and the rest of Northumberland County. “I could give you a long list of businesses in this community that do trade internationally, and a number of them are involved with Export Development Canada and are going on trade missions.”

Canadians have also created more than one million new jobs in the last four years, she said, but pointed to the need for a skilled workforce as a challenge.

“I have businesses tell me they need engineers. They may find an engineer but the engineer may be right out of school, moving here trying to find rental accommodation or entry-level housing,” she said.

She said that the government created the Home Buyers’ Plan, which she anticipates will lead to 100,000 families moving into homes.

The MP also touted recent announcements about the creation of new seniors' housing, which she said is all part of the ‘housing continuum’ and ultimately frees up some rental accommodations.

She also outlined how the Canada Child Benefit relates to business, which brings in $5.5 million to the riding each month.

"It's over 16,000 children that are supported..." she said, adding that anecdotal information reveals this money is being spent locally by rural communities. 

 

“We’ve seen that as a big economic driver,” said Rudd.

Climate change has real number impacts on businesses as well, she said, calling it the “biggest existential challenge in our generation.”

“In 2018, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said it paid out $1.8 billion in claims directly related to climate change,” she said, noting that this means premiums are going up. “That means businesses, municipalities, communities, individuals and families have to find a way to manage that.”

Rudd said climate change is here, it’s real and it’s something her government is very committed to.

Outlining some broad measures that the provincial government has taken on the economic development front, Piccini said it has been a very busy year.

“The legislature has sat a record number of days this year and we have delivered on a number of key commitments that we made to Ontarians during the campaign,” he said. “It’s more than just creating the conditions for jobs, it’s about ensuring that we have the talent pipeline to bring our next generation into the workforce.”

As parliamentary assistant to the minister of training, colleges and universities, Piccini said he recently spoke at the Toronto Region Board of Trade and praised a report they released called ‘Help Wanted.’

“It talks about people without jobs and jobs without people, and there is a disconnect there,” he added. “People are graduating and for whatever reason employers are telling us the next generation don’t have that skill set and competencies to enter the workforce.”

Piccini said he has also been hearing from youth in rural and other communities that there are no jobs.

“It’s about bridging that disconnect,” he said.

In addition to building a skilled workforce for tomorrow, the MPP said that healthy Ontarians and investment in infrastructure are other economic development drivers.

Another way to promote growth is through the reduction of red tape and making it easier for educational institutions to add new programs, Piccini said.

“We have over 338,000 regulations in Ontario. That’s over double the next highest province and we are committed to addressing that,” he said, adding that each ministry is committed to a target of 25 per cent red tape reduction.

He said his ministry has been approached by universities and colleges about program approvals, in light of their desire to respond to the challenges facing the agri-food and agri-innovation sectors.

“The workforce is changing, technology is changing and we have to be able to pivot to be able to meet those demands,” said Piccini. “Program approvals took two years when we entered office, and we have reduced that to eight months.”

Borowec, the third speaker on the panel, highlighted some of the activities taking place across the county under six portfolios: the Business Entrepreneurship Centre Northumberland (BECN), land use planning, settlement services, investment attraction, agri-food activities at the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre(OAFVC) in Colborne, and tourism and tourism development.

“The primary economic driver in Northumberland County is vision,” he said. “The vision of the county is to bring together people, partnerships and possibilities for a strong and vibrant Northumberland.”

Applauding the work of Rob Day, the manager of BECN, he said that the hard work has resulted in some outstanding numbers.

Between 2016 to 2018, he said the work of the centre has led to the start up of 267 businesses that are still in existence today, resulting in the creation of 337 local jobs.

“That’s quite an effort and to put it into cost terms, the investment through the centre was about $1,600 per client to get them going,” Borowec said.

In an interview with Northumberland News, he said the first step needs to be an investment in infrastructure to have available employment-ready land available to sell.

“Everything is integrated. We need pipe in the ground, we need infrastructure and by the same token we also need affordable and attainable housing,” he said. “If you’re going to attract a labour force, they need some place to live at a rate that they can actually afford.”

Through the county’s settlement services, he said the region is trying to attract a more diverse population to create a larger workforce.

“Right now the majority of newcomers are very urban-centric,” he said. “They go to where their cultural communities are and establish a comfort level. Our aim is to create employment opportunities here and try to integrate them into our own communities.”

by Dominik Wisniewski

Dominik Wisniewski is the Cobourg reporter for the Northumberland News.

Email: dwisniewski@northumberlandnews.com