Running a business can be challenging. Running a business in a small town with a seasonal economy even more so.
To help local businesses thrive, the Town of Huntsville’s Economic Development Advisory Committee is embarking on a new process to first identify and then help to solve some of the Huntsville business community’s most pressing issues.
“The committee feels it’s important that as the Town goes through its strategic planning process, we need to determine what we can do to improve the local economy and business climate,” said Scott Ovell, Community Development Officer for the Town of Huntsville.
So they reached out to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), which has a program that helps communities undertake a Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) Project. OMAFRA calls the program “a structured action-oriented, community-based approach to business and economic development. It promotes job growth by helping communities learn about issues as well as opportunities for local businesses and sets priorities for initiatives to address their needs.”
A working group, which will be presented at the next Council meeting for approval, will launch an information-gathering project in early April.
“Through OMAFRA, we have created a survey which the working group will use to interview business owners in Huntsville,” said Ovell. “That information will be analyzed and translated into an action plan which identifies the projects and initiatives that the municipality and its partners, like Muskoka Futures, the Muskoka Small Business Centre, the BIA, the Chamber of Commerce, and YMCA, can address.”
The goal of the project, said Ovell, is to get a solid understanding of the current economic climate in Huntsville. What are some of the issues that our business community is facing? And what can the municipality and its partners be doing to improve and strengthen the business community and economy so we have a more vibrant community?
The working group will begin contacting business owners in April, but any who want to participate are welcome to contact Ovell directly.
Our goal is to reach out to as many businesses as possible in Huntsville. If we are going to undertake initiatives to help the business community, it’s important for us to know not only the benefits of being a business owner in Huntsville but also the difficulties they face on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis, and what we can do to alleviate those stresses or pressure points to make it easier for them to conduct business and remain competitive.
Scott Ovell, Community Development Officer for the Town of Huntsville
While there will be a variety of issues that will be identified by the survey, there are likely to be recurring themes that the working group is already aware of. “Housing is always a challenge,” said Ovell. “So are transportation and the seasonality of our economy.”
The Town of Huntsville last undertook a BR+E in 2004. Ovell plans to continue the process started this year on a smaller scale every 12 to 18 months. “That will help ensure we are on the right track and identify problems before they become major issues for the community.”
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