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Cheese off the table again

By Ross Lees
An Ontario Market Investment Fund Economic Development grant of $93,396 still doesn’t make the cut with Prince Edward County council.
The “Invest in Cheese” initiative was lost in two tie votes at the Dec. 21 council meeting and lost again at a committee of the whole meeting Thursday afternoon. The program is aimed at attracting small scale artisan cheese, and other food and beverage producers to the counties of Hastings, Prince Edward, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington.
The motion was put forward to share further information but council chose not to initiate a grant process which would commit council to its share of approximately $46,000 over 15 months.
As the topic was tabled, Mayor Peter Mertens pleaded with council to keep an open mind about the grant application.
“We need to make a decision after we have educated ourselves,” he said. “This motion to reconsider is so that we can get additional information,” he added, noting that the economic development officer (EDO) Dan Taylor had been unable to attend the council meeting when the topic was originally discussed in council, but that he was in attendance at the committee of the whole meeting. Hastings County Economic Development Manager Andrew Redden was also in attendance and prepared to speak on the topic.
Councillor Keith MacDonald said he had heard there “had been lobbying to no end to change council’s thinking on this matter.” He added he had thought the issue out when it came before council the first time and he did not need to reconsider his stance.
Councillor Bev Campbell said the issue deserved a second look.
Committee of the whole chairman Kevin Gale called for the motion to accept the grant on the understanding the program could be cancelled at any time without penalty. The motion was again lost before the additional information could be discussed or presented. At the Dec. 21 council meeting the motion was lost as council was reluctant to commit to the $46,000  County portion of the grant. Those councillors argued they had heard from their constituents that they wanted the spending of taxpayers’ money to stop.
EDO Dan Taylor commented after the decision had been made that it was “not ideal” but added there might be a chance during the budgeting process to breathe new life into the grant request.
“It’s over for the moment at this time,” he said.
Asked about whether he thought the decision would cause staff cuts within the EDO, Taylor stated, “We will have to cut staffing as it proceeds but not at this instant.”
Taylor noted a number of leads had been generated by the process in the past and the present staff is necessary to continue to farm and develop additional leads.

The Economic Development Office’s full report here

Council cuts the cheese

DEC. 21 – By Ross Lees
An “Invest in Cheese” initiative failed to get further investment from the new Prince Edward County council. The program is aimed at attracting small scale artisan cheese, and other food and beverage producers – in partnership with three neighbouring municipalities.

Two motions were lost at Tuesday night’s council meeting because of tie votes. Mayor Peter Mertens cast his vote to create the tie in both cases.

Councillor Jamie Forrester questioned the value of the program to the ratepayers of the County.

“It has shown no results in the last two years. It’s not wise spending,” Forrester said, indicating he would like to see more information from the Economic Development Office outlining direct benefits of the initiative to the County before he supported the plan.

Karin Desveaux-Potters, of the Economic Development Office, defended the initiative at the council meeting but could not produce, on-the-spot, the kind of benefits and numbers to satisfy Forrester and others on council. An EDO report explained the $180,000 venture between PEC, Hastings, Lennox and Addington and Frontenac counties was such a success, the four decided to continue the partnership for another two years with an application to the Ontario Market Investment Fund to help with costs. They were awarded a $93,396 grant. The economic development office would contribute $46,000 over the next 15 months as the County’s portion matching the funding.

Desveaux-Potters said there have been four “live” leads out of 100 expressions of interest in the program. She noted one lead resulted in the purchase of an old cheese factory, (although not in Prince Edward County), and expects more economic spinoffs from the 100 leads.

Councillor Terry Shortt said he understood they were talking about a grant, but noted “there is a municipal component to this grant and you have to be able to afford your end of the deal.”

“We hear this is highly successful,” said Forrester, “But how do we measure highly successful? Maybe it’s time to move on to something else.”

Councillors Kevin Gale and Barry Turpin both defended the program.

Gale said stopping spending entirely made no sense, noting that things like the waste water treatment plant, road upgrades and the new Wellington and District Community Centre would not have come to fruition if spending was stopped.

“Here’s an opportunity to extend a program and I think it’s a good program,” Gale said.

Turpin concurred, adding, “This is a good proposal. This is a market we should be able to exploit in combination with three different municipalities. It’s a good deal.”

Councillor Janice Maynard said she would like to see more specific data supporting the program and grant.

“The report is slim on specifics,” she said. “Perhaps more information would make us more comfortable with spending money to make money.”

Two tie votes resulted, (eight-to-eight) on motions to support the program in principal, but defer it to the budget deliberations and to approve acceptance of the grant.

For more information on the program, visit:

Filed Under: Local News


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  1. Lori Smith says:

    Excellent point, Richard.

    To Trevor and Paul: We were asked to post our full names by the administrator, when this page was created. As you see, we have been doing so. It would be polite for you to follow suit.

  2. Paul says:

    From The County website “Cheese Factories
    After the “barley days,” entrepreneurial County farmers explored different opportunities including more dairy farming. Their success was such that at its peak the dairy industry supported 20 cheese factories. Many historic buildings that are now homes, shops and restaurants started life as a cheese factory. As industrialization crept over the countryside, small producers were purchased and amalgamated until we were left with just one cheese factory. Black River Cheese was established in 1901 as a co-operative and has survived 100 years of turmoil including rising from the ashes of a devastating fire in 2001. Rebuilt and going strong it still produces award-winning cheeses.

    My guess is these could have been conmsidered Artisan Cheese Factories as wikipedidia explains “Artisan cheese is manufactured by hand using the traditional craftsmanship of skilled cheesemakers” No sense beating a dead horse.

  3. Janet Davies says:

    Go Renia!

  4. In response to Lori’s wondering about growing conditions for sea buckthorn, it thrives in harsh conditions on marginal land (Zones 3 to 8), is a rich source of vitamins A and C, is extremely productive, and is sold both in juice form and as a decoction that is used to treat skin eruptions. All good reasons for the EDO to consider supporting its planting and processing as an alternative to cheese.

  5. Gary Mooney says:

    Regarding paying off our debt, most of it is for water and wastewater infrastructure. The only way that this debt can be paid off is by water and wastewater charges, not by municipal taxes.

  6. Doris Lane says:

    JohnThompson is correct, there does not seem to be many goat herds in the county.
    How much milk does one goat give? Not a lot compared to a cow.
    John knows a lot about agriculture. Too bad he was not elected since everyone seems to be weighing in that topic. In a lot of cases most of the people would not know how to milk a goat.
    I love Lori’s 10 food trends for 2011. Take a look everyone. Don’t think I would like to eat many of them.
    Does the County still support TASTE. Seems it should be able to stand on its own now

  7. Richard Parks says:

    Does any one else find it strange that on Dec 21 this
    was an urgent,time sensitive matter and now we are being told that there’s still
    time to look at this through the regular budget process?
    Lori is correct. All spending such as this is at the descretion of Council, and as such should proceed through the regular budget process to be weighed and measured against all other spending of this nature.
    Jobs may be at stake here, but none in the Food and Beverage Industry, I’m afraid.

  8. John Thompson says:

    As I have said before, you can’t make more goat cheese without the milk and it is not available locally. No sign of that changing anytime soon and no effort to get more producers on line.

  9. Paul says:

    “Industry” ohh the taboo word in The County.Hey remember Bata,Baxters the Fisheries did’nt seem to be a whole lot of support for those places back in the day.Why you may ask yourself and your gonna hear We’re to far away from the 401, to that I say BULLSHARKS look at Ceramet, Cressy Tool and Die.Wanna know why ? Nooo I mean you reallly wanna know why, TOURISM don’t wanna scare off the tourist.And hows that bin werkin fer us, 5O Million in debt ya thats it…

  10. Lori Smith says:

    Trevor, I guess you did not do well in math at school. There is no way 30 new jobs in the county could wipe out our debt of $50 Million, or $50,000,000.00 in five years. That would be the equivalent of $10 million a year in new tax revenue.

    First, the county can only levy taxes on property not wages or business profits. So if a small cheese company or two came to the County and hired 30 people to wipe out the debt they would be required to develop $500,000,000 ($500 Million) worth of commercial properties for each of the next five years. ($500 Million x .02 = $10 Milion)

    Just how much cheese do you think they would need to produce to create enough profit to build those buildings? And how many goats or sheep would it take to make enough milk to make that amount of cheese? What would we do with all the waste those goats and sheep produced? ….

  11. Lori Smith says:

    Location, Location, Location!

    It’s not being 3 min off the 401 that hampers small industry My husband started a small distribution business here in 1980’s. First office was in Belleville, then in Bloomfield (old canning factory), next stop Picton, then he built his own warehouse in the industrial park in Picton. For about 20 years (now retired) and we were shipping across Canada and receiving from around the world. Didn’t need to be on the 401 – used toll-free and faxing then internet. LIght industry can be just about anywhere these days. Aren’t most things we buy made halfway around the world? We get food stuffs daily from South America, Mexico, the middle east, Africa, New Zealand… I checked out the article in the Globe & Mail for the top 10 food trends for 2011. Here they are…

    1) Vegetable ash
    2) Olive oil alternatives
    3) Locally grown global produce
    4) Sea buckthorn (shrub with orange berries)
    5) Drinkable snacks
    6) “Healthy” indulgence (healthy ingredients in decadent foods)
    7) American invasion – more food chains from US moving into Canada
    8) Artisanal cheese
    9) Better breakfasts (offering breakfast type foods all day)
    10) Old school recipes

    Artisan cheese is listed as #8 on the list which refers to dining trends in the big cities (and reflected in the tourist areas that cater to those visitors). Maybe the we should stat with the No 1 item on the list and advertise for someone to come in to the County and buy our vegetables and burn them and package and sell the ash. Big half empty canning factory in Bloomfield should be room enough. Oil alternatives (2), more of a long term investment required as the article referred to almond and walnut oils. Takes a few years to grow the nut trees, but that did not deter the wine growers. Locally grown global produce (3) – not sure what we can grow here with our climate that we don’t already grow- maybe in a few more years with global warming we can try olive, citrus or mango groves. Plant sea buckthorn (4)? no idea what conditions those shrubs require. And I could go on.

    But seriously folks, we need a budget first. Council members who supported the cheese initiative voted to not defer it until a budget was in place and tried to push it through. I cannot see how after two years with no returns, they can call it a success story. 100 leads were generated – that’s nice but it does not bring any new tax dollars to the County and there is no guarantee it will. What they were asking for was money that we don’t have, would probably have to borrow (more interest on more debt), or dip into the reserves for, which are already far too low. So I say “Hat’s off” to the councillors holding the line.

  12. Theresa Durning says:

    Bravo, Janet Davies! You took the hammer and hit that nail square on the head. When the day comes that PEC is located a ramp exit away from the 401 corridor, then we can entertain the notion of a widget factory. A steady, sustainable, ten year increase in agri-tourism, culture (including visual arts, music, theatre, history and heritage) and specialty food and beverage production has made PEC a wonderful place – to visit and to call home. Let’s stop comparing water treatment plants and other infrastructure projects to industry. And, let’s start thinking in broader terms about what exactly industry is and could be.

  13. Doris Lane says:

    Dave I guess you are referring to my reference of giving money to restaurants who advertise in glossy magazines and then get an article in the toronto papers.
    My information source stated that if a restaurant put a $5000 ad in these magazines that the EDO gave each restaurant back $2500.. that is tax payer money.

  14. Dave Bissonette says:

    Too much misinformation. The Artisan Cheese project was only launched as is a few months ago. I read their research report which was done in 2009 outlining all the assets and provided direction on how to proceed. The EDO also consulted the industry reps and those interested in artisan cheese making. Their website (which also won an award) has been in place since last Spring meaning more time is needed before getting too critical.

    Also, the EDO has indicated that municipalities in Ontario are prohibited from bonusing meaning it is not perjured that local tax dollars go to for profit businesses. The talk by Doris Lane below is false in terms of suggesting it’s a waste of money giving tax dollars to businesses when it’s impossible to do so anyway.

    I see the work of our EDO is providing a hands up approach, not a hand out. They are putting our County on the map and helping generate tax dollars so people like Doris and others don’t have to pay more. If we cut taxes too much we won’t have anything.

  15. Doris Lane says:

    Janet I am sure the ED office spends its huge budget on many things and some of it is on staff. People will come to the county and start up small businesses like art studios and market gardeners. We have excellent market gardeners that I am sure startied up without any help from the ED office.
    The restaurants and the winneries work together. I am sure they do not need a third party helping them along.
    I am sure the council should support our winneries and not make it difficult for them to operate by imposing some regs on them.
    And lets not hit new business or buildings of any kind with development fees and permits for all kinds of things. That drives business and development out of the county. One of our home builders had an article in the paper awhile back and said he would rather build anywhere except Prince Edward county.
    Let council be concerned with the infastructure of the county and look after things that is the business of council. WE do not need to re-imburse restaurants for putting ads in glossy toronto mags.

  16. Janet Davies says:

    So we killed the cheese grant – now move on to something else. Like what? Like attracting the industry that’s been turning us down for half a century? Why won’t industry come here? Because it’s not the right location. Period. Maybe if we threw millions of dollars at a factory they’d think about it (unfortunately we spent our spare millions on a quarry.) Tourism, food, wine and wellness are industries too. Economists say artisan cheese is one of the fastest growing sectors in N.America. But we’d rather have a factory, or, failing that, a Call Centre. That’ll be nice for the kids. Boring, underpaid, sedentary work servicing giant corporations – until they outsource to India. Nope, our strength lies in being NOT industrial. I understand we need to cut spending. But I suspect it will be highly subjective. I’ll be interested to see if we buy that $175,000 excavator for our $8 million quarry. As Gary M says the ED office spends its budget money trying to attract money – investment – jobs – industry. Nice one to take the first hammer blow to.

  17. Doris Lane says:

    Trevor this is not Quebec where artisan cheese factories are. They do not have a milk marketing board who controls things. Where would new factories get the milk?
    As I said in a previous message cheese factories in the County are a thing of the past.
    I know the new factory at Cressy is doing well. I believe they got a grant but most of it was private money. A dream Mrs Cooper had and she worked on it. The taxpayers can not afford to chase dreams. As Richard Parks said we have already wasted a lot of money and time. Time to move on to something with a little more meat to it.
    Maybe the Industrial Commissioner could find some light industry that would like to locate here and get away from the food industry for awhile.

  18. Trevor says:

    Getting a few artisan cheese factories in the county means at least 30 sustainable, non-seasonal jobs resulting in thousands of dollars put into the area. This is a long term investment, and without these types of spending, we may be out of dept in 5years, but at the expense of diminished jobs and tax base. On a side note, can anyone answer why I see county workers digging out ditches, and weed whacking around bridges all summer? Looks like great ‘make work’ projects. -Trevor

  19. Chris Keen says:

    I don’t think anyone would object to an investment that shows a clear return to the County. But after two years, the cheese marketing idea isn’t working for us. Let’s not forget that the $93k “grant” is coming out of our pockets as well. Just a different set of hands picking them.

  20. Doris Lane says:

    Cheese is such a non-issue in the county.Years ago we had over 10 independent cheese factories in the county. Fresh milk delivered to the factories every day–cheese made every day. I taught across from Elmbrook Cheese Factory and every day at 3 o;clock I could send a child whose father sent milk and they would give us enough curd for my 40 children, one room school house.. Now we have very few milk producers in the county and the milk that reaches the cheese factories is now days old. If someone has a wine and cheese party most of the cheese that is used is not produced locally. So the argument that we need cheese to go with our wine does not hold up
    As Richard says lets get the budget in place and not be in a hurry to grab at FREE???
    money.Come on councillors we have to watch every dollar that is spent and cut the spending of every dollar we can.

  21. Richard Parks says:

    Appears there were 8 who were afraid to question “Invest in Cheese” – 2 years with zero results for the taxpayers.
    Got to hand it to the EDO. First working meeting of the new Council, no budget in place, sense of urgency to grab provincial funding, can’t let the neighbouring Municipalities down, jobs are at stake. Get used to it,Councillors.

  22. Lori Smith says:

    Spending money to promote economic development can be very costly and just because the neighbours are doing it does not mean we have to too. Once things are set in motion they have a tendency to keep going under their own momentum if they are successful. I believe Taste! is a good example here, without funding it may not have gotten off the ground. It is now so well known, that I believe the bulk of attendees are from outside our borders. Does this mean we need to continue to fund it or can it not stand on its own feet after 10 years of funding? Successful ventures like Taste! the Taste Trail, the Arts Trail, have been funded and now they should be able to run on their own – that would be the revenue generating part, as mentioned by Gary Mooney. Success stories have a way of getting out and being copied and also attracting new business ventures, just because they exist here. Maybe, at least for a few years, we can step back a bit and concentrate on making other areas of running the County more efficient.

    We must learn from other’s mistakes instead of repeating them. Many large Charities felt that they must spend thousands $ in advertising to get funding because other charities were doing it and were highly visible to the public. In many cases the cost of the advertising outstripped the amount of funding attracted, putting the Charities is in a net loss position.

    Now that we are in a similar position with our $50M debt, we cannot follow the Feds in trying to spend our way out – at least they have the ability to “print money”.

    What we need to do is reduce our expenses – one way would be to reduce council size. The question on the ballot last November clearly showed that it is what the people of the County want. Now is the time to start moving on that issue. At the Picton all candidates meeting, Bev Campbell told us that several scenarios had already been studied and I assume those reports are collecting dust on some shelf in Shire Hall. Time to dust them off and revisit them, and maybe we won’t need to hire another consultant to tell us how to restructure if the options have already been laid out.

    Lets get to it!

  23. Gary Mooney says:

    Everyone would agree that there are some expenditures that ahould not be cut — for example, clearing snow from roads. Some people believe that we should cut expenditures on economic development during this difficult period. That’s effectively saying that we should cut expenditures on job maintenance and job creation, because that’s the primary benfit of ecoomic development activities.

    Economic development is a profit centre — i.e. there are both revenues and expenses associated with the activity. Snow clearing is a cost centre — no revenue involved. When considering cutting costs in a profit centre, it is necessary to consider the effect on revenues as well — i.e. look at the net effect. If we cut expenditures on economic development, we have to assume that future revenues — and the total jobs associated — will be reduced or fail to grow as a result.

    It is true that the revenues accrue to businesses that move into the County, but growing the local ecnonomy — providing jobs and increasing the tax base — is one of the key roles / services of municipal government.

    And there is a momentum consideration. As soon as economic development activity ceases, the area become next to invisible to investors, who are being entriced by many municipalities. It’s like the situation when a consumer goods company ceases to advertise — out of sight, out of mind.

    It’s not acceptable to stop spending money to clear snow from roads, and it’s not acceptable to stop spending money on economic development. Both are essential services. We need to maintain and increase economic development, but on an intelligent basis that considers return on investment.

  24. willem maas says:

    It must be very hard to adjust to the new reality. We don’t have the money. We don’t have the $46k to spend on a specific proposal until somehow the Council figures out where our priorities are. If at the end of the day it says that we should do cheese, so be it. We have to get away from the ,I hate to say it” Gale et al. mentality” just because other government bodies hold out the hope for money PROVIDED we put in our share. Well people, we don’t have the share until we have a decent plan and we know what we are doing as a community. To hold up the sewage treatment plan as an example is absurd. We did that, because we had no choice under the law and believe me we still did not get the most cost-effective alternative in place – but that is another story.
    To Jamie and the other eight council members, congratulations for holding firm and signalling a new era of accountability. Get the plan done and the budget fixed before you get trapped into specific wanna do programs.

  25. Doris Lane says:

    The Council should concentrate on the business of operations and maitenance , not investment strategies or economic development.

    WE have to get rid of the deficit and in order to do so a plan must be put in place to reduce it by so much each year. We cannot afford to hire people to look after business that should be private enterprise

    Money should only be spent on absolutely necessary things that are needed to run the county.

    Look to Mayor Ford in Toronto , he knows that the spending has to stop.

  26. Lori Smith says:

    The County really needs to avoid spending beyond our means and this council appears to be trying to do that. There is no reason we should be investing in private business when PELA CFDC is there for that very reason.

  27. Gary Mooney says:

    While I agree that we need to hold the line on the total tax levy, we also need to take advanatage of economic development opportunities.

    The regional cheesemaking initiative could be very significant for the County. It is highly compatible with our agricultural / winery base and may result in new small businesses being established here which will provide permanent, year-round jobs. It will also give a further boost to our tourism industry.

    It will take time to establish a cheesemaking industry here — at least five years — and will require some investment by the County. But we already have an excellent base in century-old Black River Cheese, producing traditional products, and startup Fifth Town Cheese, producing artisanal products and attracting attention far and wide. And the two companies have already set the stage for cooperation among producers for their mutual benefit.

    Because this initiative is regional rather than County only, we can expect that the County’s required startup investment will be lower and its eventual success will be greater.

    Quebec has more than 200 artisanal cheesemakers; Ontario has only a fraction of this number. We have an excellent opportunity for growth here, but it’s now or never.

  28. Doris says:

    Kudos to Chris. We have spent an enormous amount of money on things that were not absolutely necessary but what has been done is in the past.
    Now we have to be sure not to spend anymore money on something that we can do without. Getting a grant is one thing but having to match that money with taxpayers dollars is quite a different thing. Also paying staff to implement new programs costs money.
    We have to remember that the council now has a 50 million dollarr deficit and a 100 million dollar budget with a depleted reserve fund.

    It would appear that Jamie Forrester spearheaded this discussion and was backed by
    Terry Short. Keep up the good work Jamie and Terry

    May everyone have a happy holiday season

  29. Chris Keen says:

    Councilor Gale:

    There is a huge difference between stopping spending and stopping spending on budget items that aren’t absolutely essential to County residents. To compare a waste treatment plant to a cheese marketing program is ludicrous. If there have been no tangible results in two years then perhaps it is time to move on.

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