BROCKTON – Representatives from Bruce County presented the planning and economic annual update to council last week.
The presentation included highlights from 2020, along with priorities for 2021 and the focus for the future.
First to speak was Coreena Smith, who discussed the land use division role and structure review connected with the memoranda of understanding with municipalities, the review of development application fees and the local planning service delivery review.
She noted that although Brockton saw a decrease in the number of planning applications from 2019 to 2020 – 40 down to 26 – “there are a lot of applications in the queue” for 2021. The county as a whole had 299 planning applications in 2020, up by four from the previous year.
Highlights for Brockton included final approval of phase one of Walker West Estates Inc., two zoning bylaw amendments to allow licensed marijuana growing facilities in business park areas of Walkerton, and pre-consultation meetings to lay out the groundwork for several multi-unit residential development applications in 2021.
In discussing planning for 2021 and beyond, Smith provided an update on Official Plan. Plan the Bruce involves agriculture, homes, natural legacy, good growth, heritage, connecting (transportation), communities, and business.
The county is in the process of seeking public feedback through stakeholder workshops. Projects open for comment include homes, agriculture, and good growth (visit www.planthebruce.ca).
This year, 2021, will see the completion of Ontario Modernization Fund projects – online applications to save applicants time, use of technology to connect local building permit information, and the land use planning strategic plan.
Manpreet Kaur Sangha discussed economic development, noting that 2020 was “an unprecedented year in which the pandemic crippled the economy.”
A task force was formed that led to the creation of the Support the Bruce: Business Sustainability Fund. This $1.75 million fund included grants and loans that helped 382 businesses access $1,327,866 to “continue to operate, adapt, pivot, incorporate health requirements or re-imagine their businesses.”
The emergency business sustainability loan helped 22 businesses continue operations; the starter company plus/ business pivot adaptation grant enabled 68 businesses to expand product lines or move online; Spruce the Bruce pandemic response grants provided 101 businesses funds to make enhancements and improvements to adapt; business safety supply grants provided the means for 180 businesses to meet new safety requirements; special edition tourism innovation lab spark grants allowed 11 tourism businesses to adapt and/or enhance their operations, offerings and products.
Business to Bruce connected with local entrepreneurs in record numbers – 1,333 inquiries, 537 outreach connections, 510 one-on-one business advice consultations, 200 people attending the Women’s Day event, 200 attendees at the Bridges to Better Business virtual event, and 41 business events, webinars and seminars.
These connections resulted in 152 new businesses opening, 48 expansions, 77 new jobs and 811 entrepreneurs trained.
The Summer Company initiative (in partnership with the province of Ontario) granted four students a total of $12,000.
The Starter Company Plus initiative, also in partnership with the province, granted seven start-up companies at total of $35,000 along with mentorship and training.
The Find Your Career in Bruce County workforce development and attraction strategy 2021-2025 was launched.
Because the county’s economic development strategy is all about collaboration, the Grey Bruce Local Immigration Partnership was among the highlights. This partnership was established to foster welcoming communities throughout Grey-Bruce, and to develop opportunities to support newcomers. Fifty-two people representing 46 organizations formed the Grey Bruce Local Immigration Partnership council.
Explore the Bruce saw messaging to visitors adjusted so they’d be in line with public health throughout 2020. There was an overall increase of 25 per cent in page views and a 32 per cent increase in users of ExploretheBruce.com, compared to 2019.
Round two of Bruce County’s “Spark” mentorship and grants program supported innovation in tourism by awarding three businesses a total of $9,000.
And the county won three of the prestigious Hermes Creative Awards – a platinum award for the Welcome Home video, and two gold awards, one for the Bruce Peninsula Ecoadventures: choose to call Bruce County home video, and the other for Grassroots Farm: choose to call Bruce County home video.
The county looks at areas of focus for various communities in 2021 – the area of focus for Walkerton is business development.
In 2021, the county will continue to support businesses impacted by COVID-19. This will entail continuing to monitor the pandemic’s impact on businesses and the broader Bruce County economy to determine what’s needed to move into full recovery and growth. The county will research and put together the next five-year economic development strategic plan. In addition, the priority is to continue marketing Bruce County as a place to visit, live and build a business.
In conclusion, she stated that “there are no stand-alone initiatives; building capacity with our partners and in our communities is integral. Together, we can ensure Bruce County’s future is strong and vibrant for generations to come.”
Coun. Steve Adams commented on planning for 25 years in the future.
“COVID taught us we’re lucky to plan two years; 25 is a big number.”
He asked about “measurables” and was told there are many ways of measuring the success of the county’s initiatives – new businesses, jobs created, the number of projects the county supports, visitor increase, and more. The county works closely with Paulette Peirol, community development co-ordinator.
Mayor Chris Peabody commented, “There’s lots of great stuff going on in the county. Thanks to the planning staff for keeping things moving in these troubled times.”
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times