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County’s business leaders talk about challenges of working in the County

The County’s Economic Development Commission heard what the municipality’s businesses leaders think about challenges of doing business in the County and changes they would like to see in the next five years.

At Wednesday’s meeting at Shire Hall, the CEDC received a report from a Business Leaders Forum held March 2 with input from 21 attendees.

“This feedback is consistent with other meetings and needs to be made public,” said councillor Bill Roberts, CEDC chair. “The bottom line message is there’s no time to waste.”

The event was held in response to feedback obtained through the County’s recent Business Retention and Expansion and Development Framework Subcommittee. The feedback is to be used by the CEDC to align priorities and plans.

Forum attendees were introduced by Adam Busscher, CEDC member, then led to round-table discussions.

Identified as urgent were the County’s opportunity to capitalize on its popularity; a need to take the opportunity and steer it toward full-time jobs, less seasonal; leverage tourism popularity to turn visitors into residents; affordable housing and recognizing the “sharing economy” is here to stay – (Air BnB, Uber, car pool apps) and how to embrace new trends and disruptive technologies (i.e. tax home-based accommodation industry, redirect funds to Affordable Housing projects).

Wednesday, the CEDC received a summary of feedback at the meeting, organized by reoccuring themes:

Affordable Housing:
 Loss of community due to seasonal rentals and AirBnB.
 Lots of families moving out of the County due to affordability.
 People come from Toronto and think the most expensive house is “affordable” driving up demand and prices that locals can’t afford.
 Consider tax on vacant homes.
 Consider lowering development charges.
 Lack of rentals for employees.
 Establish accommodations at wineries.
 Rent cost exceeds mortgage and housing prices
 Belleville housing costs are $250K vs $7-800K for something similar in the County.
 Belleville costs are $4-500/month less than the County for rent.
 Need new builds to build back inventory.

Workforce Retention & Attraction:
 Employer mentorship & HR training:
 Move past minimum wage if they want to retain or attract new employees.
 Proper career paths and opportunities for employees.
 Off season shrinking, easier to keep employees on longer and offer full-time should be the goal.
 Educate and work with employers on working with semi-retired locals to come back to the workforce (flexible hours, re-training, etc.)
 Work with Loyalist College to provide apprenticeship programs locally. (Skilled Trades)  Employers need to pay wages that they can afford to buy a home here.
 Where is the next generation of young workers going to come from?
 Youth won’t be coming back if there is no opportunity based on current trends.
 Ignorance toward foreign workers and immigrants locally.
 Lack of training, especially in the hospitality industry. Skills not here locally.

High Speed Internet Access:
 Particularly in rural out of town areas.
 Access to Information: Difficult to determine where high speed is available.

Rural Business Expansion Limitations:
 Zoning restrictions
 Provincial policies restrictions
 Agri-tourism restrictions on land use.
 Ministry of Environment restrictions.
 Lack of common sense.
 Huge challenge to establish accommodations at wineries.
 Agricultural preservation has had a negative effect on what it was intended to do.
 Lumping 600 acre lots into prime Ag is convenient for planning, but makes it difficult for business looking to expand.

Development Process:
 Process takes too long for investors
 Quinte West is far more welcoming with no issues.
 No discretion or flexibility allowed in development.

Commercial Space Availability:
 Most have to convert houses to offices. This effects affordable housing stock and is not ideal compared to a real commercial spaces.
 Space with real high speed internet.

Public Transportation:
 Very important for workforce attraction from Quinte area.
 Need to promote or leverage ride sharing programs
 Need to support Deseronto transit.

Filed Under: Local News

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