By Chad Ingram
Job creation, along with business attraction and retention, are major and ongoing challenges in Haliburton County.
They are mentioned frequently during most every municipal election (provincial and federal ones too, for that matter), but are not always part of municipal discourse.
While economic development was once a county prerogative, grouped together with tourism, three years back county council decided the upper tier would concentrate on the branding and promotion of the Haliburton Highlands as a tourism destination, delegating the responsibility of economic development to the four lower-tier townships.
Each has dealt with the task in its own way, some with advisory committees and even staff dedicated to the matter, and others not.
The business landscape in the community is always evolving, growing over time, albeit not as quickly as some may like.
Different areas go through phases. Right now, for example, Minden’s downtown strip along Bobcaygeon Road is looking pretty good, most of its storefronts full and a few of the buildings renovated in recent years.
At the northern end of Minden Hills township, Carnarvon, on the other hand, is not looking so hot at this particular juncture.
Two of the four corners at the intersection of highways 35 and 118 are occupied by a closed gas station and the vacant lot that housed Carnarvon Bowl until it burned down more than two years ago.
Yes, it’s true these spaces are of course privately owned and what the owners choose to do or not do with them is their choice.
However, it does beg the question if enough is happening on the economic development front.
The intersection at Carnarvon, by the way, in terms of traffic count, is the busiest in the county.
At least one member of county council has suggested that perhaps the upper tier should look at reassuming an economic development role.
And perhaps this is the case.
Also, as it seems to be in transition already, perhaps it is time for the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce to take a more active role in business attraction.
The chamber hosts many networking events, including its monthly breakfasts, releases newsletters and last year hosted a series of roundtable discussions on topics relevant to local business owners.
And that is great.
However, perhaps it’s time for the chamber to shift its focus a bit, and instead of looking mostly at existing businesses, take a look at those that might exist with the right help, or might be enticed to move to the community, with enough convincing.