A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the opening ceremonies for the K & P Trail. It was a great event, and one that was thoroughly enjoyed by all who were in attendance. It was also great to be back in Central Frontenac, and to more fully appreciate just how much this region has to offer.
I presently live in Toronto, but my wife and I have owned property in Central Frontenac for the past several years. Both of us will turn 60 this year, and our eventual goal is to spend our retirement years in this region. Having now had a chance to become somewhat familiar with the region, it’s clear that Central Frontenac could be a great place to make a living, and a great place to make a life. But it also seems equally clear that, if Central Frontenac is ever going to fulfill its true potential, going forward economic development will have to be treated as a top priority. And in this area, it would appear that we’ve got a lot of work to do.
Central Frontenac has much to offer to businesses of almost any kind. Compared to larger population centers, the costs of doing business are quite reasonable. The region offers modern physical and technological infrastructure, excellent access to major markets located throughout Central Canada and Eastern North America, and a stable and dedicated workforce. Perhaps most importantly, Central Frontenac is a place where you’ll find an affordable cost of living accompanied by an exceptional quality of life, both of which are invaluable in helping companies attract and retain top-notch employees.
But without a clear plan of action to promote what Central Frontenac has to offer, we have little hope of seeing any real progress.
There are many possible options for promoting economic development in Central Frontenac. The region could be a great location for certain types of light manufacturing, provided that appropriate infrastructure were put in place. There is obviously significant potential to foster growth in the tourism sector. And in my view, there would be great opportunities to attract more semi-retired professionals who plan to continue working, but want to do so in an environment that offers a much more relaxed lifestyle than that which can be found in a large urban centre.
This could offer tremendous benefits for Central Frontenac. Successful economic development would translate into more people buying goods and services from businesses already established here, more new jobs that will encourage our young people to stay in the community, and of course, greater tax revenues for the township. It would be a win-win scenario that would ultimately benefit all residents of the community.
But the bottom line is, we need a plan for economic development, and we need it now. What’s needed now – and in my view, the need is urgent - is a plan that reflects what the community wants, that lays out clear and realistic goals for promoting Central Frontenac, and that is supported by an appropriate level of resources. With such a plan, it would be possible to begin to take some concrete steps forward that would lead to real results, and real benefits, for the entire community.
The Corporate Strategic Plan adopted by Central Frontenac Council in February of this year does identify the formulation of an economic development plan by 2019 as being one of its goals, but no elaboration is provided as to what this plan should focus on, or who will be responsible for creating it. In the absence of any clear guidance on these important issues, nothing much is likely to get done.
In her remarks at the K & P Trail ceremonies, Mayor Frances Smith noted with pride that “this community runs on volunteerism”. It’s true that volunteerism can be a great thing, but it must be remembered that there are clear and significant limits to what volunteers can do entirely on their own. When it comes to something as important as economic development, what’s needed is proper plan that is professionally done, appropriately focused, and carefully implemented. A solid, well-thought-out plan could make a world of difference to Central Frontenac’s future. In the absence of such a plan, I fear the community may wind up going nowhere.
In the wake of the forthcoming provincial election next June, and the municipal elections that will follow in October, a great deal is going to change in Ontario in the next few years. I’m firmly convinced that the time has come for the Central Frontenac Council to demonstrate some leadership on the issue of economic development, and take action to develop and implement the kind of plan this community needs. If you feel the same way that I do, I would encourage you to contact Mayor Smith or your local council representative, and make your views known. Remember, it’s up to us to build a bright and prosperous future for the community that we love. Let’s work together to create kind of future that the people of Central Frontenac deserve.