| Feb 16, 2006


Feature Article - February 16, 2006

Feature Article

February 16, 2006

Verona CommunityAssociation business lunch

by Jeff Green

Fifteen members of the Verona and area business community gathered last Thursday for the first ever Verona Businesspeople’s Luncheon at Mom’s Restaurant in the heart of the village.

The Verona Community Association (VCA) organised the event. The VCA is well known for organising events such as the Verona Festival and the annual Christmas tree lighting. It had its origins as a business association. After a few years, however, it became clear the business owners did not have enough time to take very active roles in organising community events, and the Community Association was established.

VCA President Marcel Quenneville has been working to enhance the warm relationship between the association and the business community. He started his remarks at the lunch by presenting the results of a business survey the VCA conducted last summer.

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Seventy-four percent of businesses surveyed said that the residents of Verona and the surrounding areas were their main customers, and 67% agreed that their business increased greatly in the summer months. Ninety-four percent of those surveyed said they have a good working relationship with other local business owners, and 80% said their business has improved over the past few years.

Perhaps the most interesting responses were to a question about what comes to mind when business owners think about what Verona needs most. The most highly recognized need was for a pharmacy, followed by a motel or more bed & breakfasts. As to what could help satisfy the needs of the community, attracting new businesses and developing parking were the most commonly identified items.

Marcel Quenneville introduced Tom Revell, owner of Verona Computer and Satellite and the webmaster for the VCA website. Tom Revell demonstrated how the site is set up and talked about improvements that are underway, including the development of an up to date categorised business directory, complete with links to member business sites and/or email addresses. Listings on the site are free to any business that has been involved in any VCA activity through financial or in-kind support.

Terry Shea, the General Manager of the Land o’ Lakes Tourist Association (LOLTA), also addressed the gathering. He discussed the role of the tourist association in member communities. The new focus of LOLTA, encapsulated in the new “Let’s Go” slogan, and their 2006 “experience planner” and vacation map, is on single day excursions for visitors to the region.

Terry Shea pointed out two important points for Verona area businesses. The first is that 2/3 of the visitors to the Land o’ Lakes region come to visit with family and friends who reside in the region on a permanent or seasonal basis. By making their services known to the local community, businesses will be accessing tourists as well. The second point is that LOLTA is now working with the Kingston Economic Development Corporation to encourage tourists who are staying in Kingston to come out to the surrounding region for day excursions.

“ Kingston , which has the ability to accommodate large numbers of tourists, is having difficulty keeping those people in the area for several days. The average tourist spends less than two nights in Kingston . If we can encourage people to spend and extra day in Kingston by spending a day in the Land o’ Lakes, it would be good for everyone,” Terry Shea said.

As the meeting wound down, and the people in attendance got ready to go back to work, there was broad agreement that the lunch had been successful. Although all of the people attending the meeting knew about the other businesses in the community, many of them had never met the people running those businesses.

Dianna Bratina, the Manager for Economic Development with the County of Frontenac , attended the meeting, as did Ann Pritchard, the Chief Executive Officer of the Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation.

There have been similar kinds of efforts made recently, in Central Frontenac and Addington Highlands , to bring business people together in order to build a stronger business community. Those initiatives were both undertaken by the local townships, through economic development committees. The Verona business lunch had no township involvement, and there were no South Frontenac councillors in attendance.

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