Mono asks for more information from trade board for office space

Mono’s deputy mayor wants to see the Dufferin Board of Trade’s financial statements before the town can give the group its location rent-free for another five years.

Doug Harkness and Diana Morris, the board’s chairperson and executive director respectively, spoke to Mono’s council when it met Feb. 14. They described some of the recent success the BOT has accomplished.

One of those fruitful endeavours is the Dufferin Biz Hub, which began in early 2020.

The Biz Hub provides professional space and support for local entrepreneurs, businesspeople, and non-profits to work, connect, and grow their business. The Biz Hub offers co-working desks, private offices, virtual offices, administrative support services, and meeting rooms for daily or long-term rentals.

In 2022, the Dufferin Biz Hub had as many as 150 rentals of daily workspaces and meeting rooms, nine virtual tenants, and a pair of yearly tenants. During the past year, the Biz Hub has provided space for many professionals and their clients to meet in Mono.

“Right here in Mono, through the Biz Hub, we’re able to provide an enhanced level of service to people in this area,” Morris said.

Harkness thanked Mono for its ongoing support and he’d like to see that relationship continue. One of the ways the town supports the BOT is by providing rent-free the house on Hockley Road from which the BOT has operated since 2013.

Previous to 2020, the group and others community organizations that shared the house paid a nominal amount of rent. That changed in 2020 when the BOT got the house rent-free.

“The space we have is fantastic,” Harkness said. “We couldn’t operate without it. It’s just a necessary thing for us. We would hope you would look into ... formalizing that.”

He said the board was lucky during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in that they’ve been able to secure grant money.

“But I assume those are going to start drying up rather quickly,” Harkness said. “And it’s really important for our finances that we kind of know where we’re going to stand on a little longer basis.”

Deputy Mayor Fred Nix said he’s aware the board of trade does a phenomenal job. That’s one of the reasons why he’s going to suggest town council provide the BOT the location rent-free for another five years.

“I’m not necessarily opposed to that, but I have some concerns,” Nix said.

Council earmarked about $13,000 in 2022 for maintenance on the house given to the BOT. Nix said that would be a sum in the area of $65,000 for another five years.

“That’s quite an ask, and I have some reservations,” he said, and added that he’s like to see the board’s financial statements of the last two years.

“I want to make sure so that we can tell the taxpayers we didn’t give away money frivolously,” Nix said.

He said he isn’t ruling out giving the house rent-free to the BOT. Rather, he feels diligence is owed to the taxpayers. To that end, council opted to shelve the issue until the BOT’s financial information is provided.

Councillor Melinda Davie asked if the request for five years without paying rent was negotiable. Council might consider agreeing to a rent-free lease for a shorter term.

Harkness said the BOT seeks stability.

Morris said that stability is necessary for budgetary reasons.

Coun. Ralph Manktelow said Mono foots the bill for maintenance costs. Dufferin County doesn’t pay anything to the BOT. And, he said, a rent-free lease means the loss of a revenue stream for the municipality.

“It’s a great thing that Mono’s doing in providing a service to the entire county,” Harkness said.

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James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen