Recovery efforts a priority for Erin’s Economic Development Committee

·2 min read

To help Erin businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic, the town’s economic development committee will focus its efforts on three areas.

In a presentation to Erin council Tuesday, chair Jim White laid out the plan.

Board members will create an entrepreneurial hub, zone in on tourism growth related to businesses and discuss business retention and expansion initiatives. Plans, however, have been on hold or partially delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

These programs were meant as ways of diversifying how businesses operate, but now it’s about ensuring they make money to stay in town with the lockdown closing virtually all of the stores.

“Given COVID-19’s arrived in (March 2020), we deferred the implementation of the entrepreneurial hub,” said White.

“Similarly, we had to defer the growth of tourism activities, and the third one, the business attraction, retention and expansion. The committee elected to put all of our resources from September in working on business recovery in the face of COVID-19. That then became the priority.”

Linda Horowitz, program manager at Innovation Guelph, will lead the entrepreneurial hub. The committee wants to develop a physical presence for businesses to share ideas, attend seminars and use workplace tools.

They've developed a plan to engage all local businesses to participate in the hub and are moving to create a virtual hub to facilitate communications with businesses.

White will lead the growth of the tourism initiative. His group plans to engage Central Counties Tourism and Headwaters stakeholders to ensure Erin’s needs are reflected in an integrated plan, study the impact of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry and identify priorities for local businesses, among many other things.

Business attraction, retention and expansion will be led by board member Laurie Davis. This group will focus on attracting new businesses to increase the tax base from the industry and ensure that existing businesses become advocates for Erin to attract new businesses.

Industries represented include advanced manufacturing, tourism and professional services. Market sectors are engineering, food and beverage, retail, wellness and restaurants.

The committee determines the status of 10 key businesses in Erin for 9 months into the pandemic, worked to gain insights into their high-level plans for 2021 and determined the impact of the situation on employment, among many other things.

Councillor Rob Smith shared his concerns, as a business owner, about the majority of the workforce not working at this time.

“They’re going to get conditioned to being very lax,” said Smith. “I think we’re going to be up against the wall when COVID is over and introducing these people back to the workforce.”

Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner