NORTH DURHAM: Councillors in North Durham recently heard an update from representatives from the Region of Durham regarding the status of the Vibrant North Durham plan.
The Vibrant North Durham plan was adopted by Brock, Scugog and Uxbridge councils in June 2013 as the first economic development plan specifically for the municipalities that make up North Durham.
“Vibrant North Durham is unique across the province, having municipalities come together this way,” Nancy Rutherford, manager of the Region’s Economic Development department said at a Uxbridge council meeting in Goodwood, on Monday, April 20.
The plan identifies four strategies to an improved economic landscape including: being open for business, inspiring and supporting entrepreneurship, creating a vibrant future for young adults and building a strong rural and small town identity.
Later this year, Vibrant North Durham will be showcased at the 2015 Building Business Forum, being held in Brock in September. The forum allows local business owners to connect and learn from each other. Last year’s forum drew a record crowd of 150 people, Scugog council was told during a presentation on Monday, April 13.
“We are hoping for more or increased turnout at the event this year hosted by the township of Brock,” Ms. Rutherford said to Scugog councillors.
Among the developments currently underway is an expansion of the Community Futures Development Corporation into Scugog and Uxbridge Townships. The corporation would supply services such as business development loans, as well as help out with strategic plans and research on economic development in the community. Their previous jurisdiction only went as far as Brock Township.
As well, work will continue on the tri-council Economic Development committee, as well as expanding the Business Ambassador program that has been proven successful in Uxbridge.
“Your township has led the way with business ambassadors, with a lot of excellent booklets and information,” Ms. Rutherford told Uxbridge councillors.
Some of the other projects currently running include Scugog Township’s Broadband project, which is looking to bring citizens wider access to high speed internet, a concern for rural residents across North Durham, as noted by Uxbridge Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy.
“Economic development is the key to keeping our kids in town, but without internet service, you’re not being competitive. It’s a huge issue if you’re trying to run a business outside of the downtown core.”
As well, Uxbridge Ward 5 Councillor Gord Highet noted the difficulties businesses attempting to set up shop in North Durham can face due to development charges, as well as added environmental restrictions, such as the Oak Ridges Moraine Act and Greenbelt Plan.
“We are turning away business because it can be too arduous to set up here. It’s like a bat to the side of the head to a potential entrepreneur when we’re in a pre-consulation meeting when the regional representative brings out their fees latest schedule,” commented Councillor Highet.
Uxbridge CAO Ingrid Svelnis also noted that costs associated with Durham Region Transit, as well as an abudance of paperwork can sometimes pose problems to potential businesses looking to set up shop in the area.
“You’re paying transit development charges here the same as in the south, which can be a tough sell,” explained Ms. Svelnis. “We tell them that we have a bus service, you just can’t see it. On top, you’re assigning homework and homework, and it’s still sometimes not enough to get through all of the different levels of bureaucracy.”
One plan, pitched by Uxbridge Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor would see altered guidelines to ease the burden on businesses in North Durham.
“The only way I can see around this is a two tiered system, with one development charge for the south, and another for the north. There are far less restrictions in the southern municipalities and I think the time has come that the Region has to start looking above Hwy. 7,” said Mayor O’Connor.