Rather than write a lengthy, broad ranging paper on a myriad of fairly obvious suggestions, this submission will focus on three opportunities: first, the need for a clear, defined and active participation in economic development to increase assessment and create jobs to attract new residents and; second, the critical need to pursue opportunities offered by its joint urban node status and; third, the need for council to put forth to the public at a large a positive image of the community;
North Simcoe needs jobs and assessment growth. It needs population growth. Midland and Penetanguishene have amongst the highest levels of property taxation in southern Ontario.
Nearly six years ago the Town and its neighbouring municipalities made the decision to abandon the role of Economic Development Officer and remove the economic development role from the Southern Georgian Bay Chamber of Commerce. Instead, Midland chose to place that responsibility in the hands of the Planning Department. Efforts to establish a meaningful economic development unit amongst the four municipalities of North Simcoe have not been successful except a token contribution – for yet more study.
The Planning Department does not deserve to be saddled with the responsibility for economic development. It does not have a budget. It is not independent from its other duties. It is a town department and the more independent from the politics and bureaucracy of the town, the more creditable an economic development office can be to prospects.
One of the responses is that the County of Simcoe is managing economic development for the whole county. However, the voice the municipalities of North Simcoe is far outweighed by the votes at county and the relative ease of the County encouraging development from Barrie southward.
There are huge opportunities in the North Simcoe area which are not being explored. For example, Elcan Optical Technologies is the town’s foremost employer. It has a large network of suppliers. Some of these could be tapped in to for opportunities to locate in this area, bringing more employment and assessment. Some initiatives do not require substantial funds: visits to provincial and federal economic development offices; visits to senior economic development officers of banks in the community; marketing to the embassies of governments from Asia and the Far East.
Vigorous promotion of the Town and the area beyond its boundaries can yield benefits. Perhaps the town just doesn’t know how to go about these opportunities?
There have been numerous studies of the area and they continue, but the commitment to positive action has been missing. If there are positive action steps being taken, they are certainly not being publicized.
Joint Urban Node Initiatives
Midland and Penetanguishene were made a joint urban node by the province two years ago and an initiative to join police forces failed. Since then there have not been any publicly visible efforts to combine services and work together as one might expect given this status.
The combining and more sharing of services is something which is a topic of conversation amongst residents. Frankly, this writer’s extensive conversations with local residents have found a strong appetite for not only more sharing of services, but also for the concept of amalgamation – a thought which was completely repugnant not many years ago.
Failures to capitalize on the joint urban node status is a lost opportunity to improve municipal efficiencies, lighten tax burdens, and demonstrate cooperation between the two municipalities and to take advantage of provincial government support and funding.
This council has presented a clear image to the public of dissention and continues to do so. Members of council publicly displaying their dislike of other members of council damages the image of the town as a place where businesses might want to locate and residents was to live. Such behaviour fails to promote and build community pride and morale amongst staff and residents. Indeed, in this day and age of mass media and communication, it has never been as easy for those looking at Midland from outside to grasp the image of the Town, and it would be a negative one.
The opportunity this council has is to present a more positive image by ceasing personal “shots” and attacks, and focusing on the major important issues facing the town. This would include abandoning such distractions as dealing with a 70-page “Code of Conduct”.
Midland is a wonderful town and community with huge potential. It does not need to suffer the embarrassment and distraction of petty personal attacks.
Moreland A. Lynn, B.Comm., MBA
Moreland Lynn is presently connected to two Midland businesses: Midland Printers and the Huronia Business Park at 355 Cranston Crescent. He is a former councillor, reeve and mayor of Midland, has been a consultant in marketing and strategic planning and is active in the community. He has served on more than fifty committees, boards and agencies.