Whitewater council hears update on Business Retention project

·3 min read

Whitewater Region -- Businesses in Whitewater Region will be invited to participate in the municipality’s new Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) project officially launched on December 16, 2021.

Scott Hamilton, Business Outreach Officer for the municipality, presented an update to Whitewater Council at its December 15 meeting.

Mr. Hamilton told council that February 1, 2022, has been set as the launch date for surveys to be provided to all business in Whitewater Region.

“The BR&E project includes a systemic interview process of businesses from all sectors of Whitewater Region,” said Mr. Hamilton. “I will undertake this interview process with assistance from (township) staff, the project leadership team, and community volunteers. A survey will focus on identifying businesses looking to expand and areas in which the municipality can assist these businesses.”

The role of Business Outreach Officer is a contract position. The Business Retention & Expansion project is a structured action-oriented and community-based approach to business and economic development. It is formatted by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and helps municipalities prioritize their efforts to support existing and new businesses. OMAFRA lists many different benefits of running an economic development project like the BR&E.

“In a rural community's economy, anywhere from 76 to 90 per cent of all new jobs come from existing businesses,” said Mr. Hamilton. “It (the project) supports business growth and fosters communication between businesses and the council. It can lead to creating a direct business networking group and allows businesses to become involved in the greater community.”

The survey will close in April 2022. In June 2022 an action plan will be presented to Council. According to analyst data provided by OMAFRA, there are currently 402 businesses in Whitewater Region. These include self-employed professionals, agriculture farmers, and traditional businesses. This number is compared to the 428 total recorded businesses in June 2019. This shows a total of 26 businesses closed between 2019 and 2021. According to the data, from 2019 to 2021, there were 136 jobs lost in Whitewater, amounting to 6 per cent of total jobs in the municipality.

Business statistics from the past ten years show that 100 businesses have closed in Whitewater from 2011 till 2021, with 350 jobs lost in that same period.

Several business leaders in the community have agreed to form a leadership team to advise and assist with the BR&E project. Team members are Dave McGonegal of Renfrew County Beef Farmers of Ontario; Bev Buchanan, Buchanan Sand and Gravel; Cindy Jamieson, Jamieson Travel & Whitewater Inn; Jeff Black, Glasshouse Botanics; Chris Thompson, Whitewater Brewery, and Bill McGill, Summerhill Resorts.

The project supports the strategies of the 2020 - 2030 Township Strategic Plan and the 2021 Community Development Workplan with respect to fostering economic development by encouraging the redevelopment and improvement of business and commercial corridors throughout the township; supporting the retention and expansion of existing businesses and attracting new economic development; supporting continued growth and development, and fostering economic development and tourism.

Starting in 2022 businesses in Whitewater will be contacted to participate in a detailed survey. Volunteers are needed to assist with the survey delivery. The survey results will culminate with an action plan to help guide council’s focus in the future.

For more details or to be a part of the project, please visit www.whitewaterregion.ca or contact Scott Hamilton 613-646-2282 ext 143 shamilton@whitewaterregion.ca.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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