Hope is not a strategy

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The Economic Development (Eco Dev) Department in North Grenville appears to be a cause for concern these days. In the past two weeks, the Eco Dev Officer left the position while the department was in the middle of a very heavy workload. The department was in the middle of doing a full program review of the department, the recently completed BR+E program needs to be presented to council (the contract of the person in charge of the program has ended), and a number of other initiatives were put on hold because of the review. Only one person remains in the department to tackle the increased workload.

In July, at a Committee of the Whole meeting, Director of Planning and Development, Phil Gerrard, announced the resignation of Eco Dev Officer, Teri Devine. Teri had accepted a position with OMAFRA, with her new area of responsibility being the Renfrew and Lanark Counties region. She had been with the Eco Dev Department since its inception in 2010. Her resignation appeared to be unexpected, and was definitely not the best of timing for the municipality. You can’t really blame her for accepting what we can only assume was a better job offer: most people would.

Back in the Spring, at a meeting of the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC is a committee made up of people who were appointed by council to advise council about matters concerning Eco Dev), Phil Gerrard announced that the Eco Dev Department was going to be undergoing a full program review, which included reviewing all activities since 2007, when the last Eco Dev strategy was completed (the Eco Dev Department began operations in 2010).

The department had never undertaken a review before, so it was estimated that it was going to take 90-120 days to complete. This was a bombshell to many in the room that day, as there had been no indication to EDAC that this was being considered. Interestingly, EDAC was also going to be assessed as part of the program review. When the review was eventually completed, Eco Dev would prepare a report and make a presentation to council with their recommendations.

The review meant that only ‘essential’ Eco Dev projects would continue. New, or less important, initiatives would be put on hold, at least until the review was completed. Originally, the review was to be completed by August 15 (it already appeared it was going to take longer than expected). Now, with the departure of Teri Devine, that date may be set back considerably, because now there is only Eco Dev Coordinator Matt Gilmer left to do the work of two. There’s an Eco Dev marketing plan, which includes a downtown business attraction strategy and a number of Eco Dev marketing materials, as well as other initiatives that are all finalised and have been waiting for months to be used or implemented. The information they contain may be out of date by the time that they get distributed or implemented, or they may even be discarded, depending on the recommendations contained in the report.

With such a large amount of work to be done in Eco Dev, and with one deadline already expected to be missed, there appears to be real cause for concern. Will someone be hired to help in the short term? How long would it take the municipality to go through the process of hiring someone? Will an employee from another department be moved over to help Eco Dev in the short term? At this point, all that businesses and residents in North Grenville can do is hope that the municipality resolves the situation quickly. But, as a friend often says when referring to less than ideal situations, “Hope is not a strategy”.

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