| Apr 06, 2006


Feature Article - April 6, 2006

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Feature Article - April 6, 2006

Addington Highlands development plan

by Jeff Green

When the Economic Development Advisory Committee of Addington Highlands was looking for a consultant to prepare an economic development strategy for the next four years, they found they need look no further than Paul Blais and Associates.

Until a couple of years ago, Paul Blais worked as Economic Development Manager for the County of Lennox and Addington, and his familiarity with the business culture and challenges faced by Addington Highlands is reflected in the report he presented at an AH Council meeting this week.

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A case in point lies in the discussion of resort development in the report. For a couple of years the township’s Economic Advisory Committee has been promoting a golf resort/spa development. Because Crown land predominates in the township, and the unresolved Algonquin Land Claim will make any kind of development on the bulk of Addington Highland’s Crown Land problematic at best, the report recommends that the township “refocus their energy on an eco-lodge resort concept, which requires less land mass, can most effectively make use of surrounding Crown Land and has recreational goals and environmental philosophies that are consistent with the community’s overall desires.”

The report also pointed to “leakage” in the retail sector. This refers to the fact that more money leaves the township in retail spending than comes in from away. This is the case in spite of the large seasonal population and 180,000 annual visitors to Bon Echo Park .

A small change in the spending ratio would have a major impact on local business, according to Paul Blais, and his report includes plans for a Shop Local program to let seasonal residents, tourists, and even permanent residents know what is available in Addington Highlands.

A third challenge identified by Paul Blais is a trend towards declining population, which he describes as “an issue that threatens the future stability of the economic and social fabric of the community.”

However, the report goes on to say, “Addington Highlands has the requisite qualities to reverse this pattern and make the area a haven for active retirees looking to find a quiet, safe, and welcoming community.”

Attracting this population requires a marketing and communications strategy, including an enhancement of the township’s website, and considerable work by the Economic Advisory Committee.

While Addington Highlands has a lot of the economic disadvantages common to other townships in the region, it has some important competitive advantages.

Under the heading “Ground Floor Opportunity”, the report notes that AH has a relatively undeveloped landscape as opposed to other locations, such as the Thousand Islands or the Muskokas. In that respect, AH is similar to other local townships. The difference is that Addington Highlands has been “proactive in developing a business case for such commercial development and taking steps to let investors know about it.”

The Economic Advisory Committee itself, and its strong relationship to council, is also noted as an advantage.

Another major advantage is the profile throughout the province and beyond, of Bon Echo Park . The report notes that “Ontarians are more likely to recognise “Bon Echo” than any other place name, including ‘Addington Highlands’. Add to this the positive connotations that it exudes and people will immediately have a positive impression of the natural environment.”

This strategic plan will give the Addington Highlands Economic Advisory Committee plenty to work on in the coming months and years as it adjusts to the departure of its funding chair Bill Brown. Larry Pealow was elected as chair this past month.

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