Chatham-Kent will look into creating a new advisory committee that will focus on the local rural economy.
Council approved the establishment of an ongoing advisory committee of council to explore, make recommendations, provide guidance and offer strategies and options in supporting and enhancing Chatham-Kent’s rural economy.
Councillor Trevor Thompson entered a motion requesting the committee during Monday night’s meeting, which referred to staff for further information.
According to Thompson, about 6,200 businesses are in Chatham-Kent, and about 3,900 of them are outside of Chatham and Wallaceburg.
“There is no rural BIA looking out for your needs. There is no Chamber of Commerce specifically tailored for rural businesses,” said Thompson.
Over the last few years, Thompson said residents in rural communities have voiced that they feel disconnected at times.
“That’s not to speak ill of the work that we’ve done,” said Thompson. “I think we’ve done a lot of very good work even, both from staff and council standpoints. I think our economic development team has done a very good job, at least as good a job as they can without, maybe, always understanding the rural point of view.”
Thompson acknowledged there were efforts in the past dedicated to this endeavour that had mostly fallen to the wayside in recent years. Thompson said now is the time to get started.
“I think this is a great opportunity,” he said. “We are growing in ways that we haven’t grown in decades. I think that’s a very good thing. We need to do some long-term strategic planning, and we need input to do it.”
However, Wallaceburg Coun. Aaron Hall asked the request to be referred to staff for details.
Hall said he agreed with the sentiment of the original motion but noted the point of the suggested referral was “avoiding duplication of work” that may be done by various other committees in the municipality.
“I believe sending this back, gathering more information, and just getting an overall perspective of all our committees would be the best and most prudent way forward for council at this time,” said Hall.
Staff will prepare a report in June that will have the details and information for the proposed committee. The report will return to council for discussion by the June 20 council meeting
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News