Despite being in the grip of COVID-19 restrictions, there’s an undercurrent of hope in planning for the future, as evidenced by community strategic planning and citizen engagement. Both Virden and the RM of Wallace-Woodworth are forging ahead, each with their own thrust.
In an attempt to grow, or at least to sustain country living, rural municipalities and incorporated towns throughout Manitoba have recognized the need to attract industry and businesses to maintain a strong, or even growing, economic base.
Since the 1970s, farm enterprises grew as well, after recovering from double-digit business-choking interest rates of the 1980s. But their growth didn’t draw in the many service businesses like the energy sector did.
Growth in the oil and gas industry, particularly between 2008 and 2014, has given our local communities a taste of what can happen in an industry boom. Now however, oil at $45 per barrel is leaving a bad taste as an unbelievable 2020 has seen COVID-19 (along with other detractors) deliver a mighty football kick to oil markets, while pinning small businesses to the mat.
To pay for the goodwill grants, the hand outs and leg-up financing that federal and provincial governments are affording us we, the people, need to make, serve and sell. I wonder where the money will come from for our next turn around the monopoly board?
Some businesses have thrived during this pandemic because people have received government support to live. In the summer, we built stuff. Hammers and saws rang out from April to November. No one was travelling. Gardening flourished, flour and yeast flew off the shelves last March as did all groceries and I happen to know that restaurants continued serving in-house or by delivery because people kept eating. Farmers kept farming, thank goodness.
Life, as we know it, has been disrupted. It’s an opportunity for innovation to massage our economy back to life.
I like what Dennis County Development Partnership has accomplished since its inception in 2017. The operative term “partnership” indicating regional strength to support business. It includes the RM of Wallace-Woodworth, RM of Pipestone and the Town of Virden. Tanis Chalmers Economic Development for Pipestone is the contact for this group.
In the fall of 2017, DCDP provided community meetings guided by consultants to take stock of inventory and communities’ perceived needs - an Investment Attraction and Economic Development Strategy. The website http://www.investsouthwest.ca/ rolled out following that, in 2018.
Economic Development Officer for Wallace-Woodworth, Tiffany Cameron, explains that the DCDP has created a database of development lands, investment marketing materials, a labour market study, a business retention and expansion survey and more. It takes more than a spray park and good schools to attract business, and this website provides practical links to financial boosts and tax breaks.
“This group was nominated for an economic development award last year as they are a model of regional cooperation and leading the way for rural investment readiness,” says Cameron.
When I look around at world news, why wouldn’t families want to move here? Can Italians, Germans, folks in Hong Kong or Alabama find the DCDP? Reston, Kenton or Virden? That’s the next piece of science, an easily searchable web page.
New on the scene, and complimentary to Virden’s visioning and DCDP info is Wallace-Woodworth Wants to Know… bringing community engagement. EDO Cameron indicates this will help define priorities for municipal ratepayers and it is guided by existing staff and elected leaders.
I hope people from Kenton to Kola to Elkhorn and every resident in-between, participates.