At the Committee of the Whole meeting recently, the Municipal Council was presented with the final report on the Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) Project. Originally, the report was to be presented by Kevin O’Dair, who was hired back in September 2016 on a ten-month contract to deliver the project. However, due to illness, Matt Gilmer of the Economic Development Department had to step in at the last minute.
The BR+E project is a community based economic development program that was developed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Funding for the project came in the form of grants from the Eastern Ontario Development Program, which is administered by the Grenville Community Futures Development Corporation (federal government) and from OMAFRA, through their Rural Economic Development (RED) program. The report contained useful information which was collected by having 21 volunteers visit 84 local businesses and asking them a series of questions in the form of a survey. This survey revealed some interesting information when using a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis. Some of the threats that were identified in the survey were the lack of a skilled workforce, increasing costs of doing business, and electricity costs. The weaknesses were traffic congestion, the cost of leasing business space, and the planning and permitting processes. The strengths identified were quality of life, community support, a growing community, and location. The opportunities were growth and development, business support, and the potential redevelopment of the former Kemptville College.
There was plenty of information contained in the report, but here are a few of the highlights. According to the survey, 88% of businesses surveyed were locally owned, and 66% were small businesses of ten employees or less, which accounts for 93% of business owners being involved in day-to-day operations. Almost 50% of businesses planned to expand in the next 18 months, with 91% expecting to increase their workforce, which means 85 possible new jobs. Over the past three years, 48% have increased their workforce, with 165 jobs being created by those 40 businesses. When asked what support services are needed, respondents said that government support, workshops/seminars and networking/peer to peer support were the top three needs. The top three types of workshops that were requested were advertising, social media, and developing a marketing plan. However, time availability (business owners sometimes aren’t available to attend) and workshop awareness (lack of knowledge that workshops are being offered) were the top two reasons for not attending these workshops.
The full report can be found on the municipal website.