A rural community improvement plan

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The Community Improvement Plan [CIP] program was a tool developed by the provincial government to allow municipalities to focus on the maintenance, rehabilitation, development and redevelopment of targeted areas within their municipality. CIPs enable municipalities to provide grants and loans to stimulate private sector investment within these targeted areas. North Grenville currently has a CIP which is called the Façade, Landscape and Signage Grant Program.

It started in 2014, in the Rideau Street and Sanders Street Triangle of Kemptville, with municipal council agreeing to invest $100,000 over five years. In 2017, the program expanded to Old Town (Downtown) Kemptville and increased in budget by $50,000. On average, the program has attracted two dollars worth of private investment for every dollar granted. The program must be applied for, with applicants needing to meet specific eligibility requirements. The Community Grants Committee makes the decision on who receives the grants, which match privately invested funds up to a maximum $5,000.

There are a number of possible uses for a CIP program that North Grenville has yet to explore, and very diverse examples of CIPs are being used creatively across Ontario. For example, Norfolk County has used their CIP for agricultural economic development. Norfolk provides incentives for the conversion and re-use of existing agricultural buildings for new agricultural activities. Elgin County’s CIP provides incentives for agricultural uses related to existing farming operations, and to support their agri-tourism oriented activities.

With the possible acquisition of the former Kemptville College looming, and the potential it represents in the fields of agriculture and agri-food, it makes sense to encourage rural economic development through the use of a Rural CIP that targets the agricultural and agri-food sectors. A Rural CIP could grant or loan money for the following activities:

– re-furbishing of existing buildings for production of agricultural and agri-food products;
– upgrading (or creating new) roadside signage to make businesses easier to locate and identify;
– building a simple roadside structure to allow the business to sell their products on their property;
– allowing new and existing businesses to seek professional help to create marketing and business plans;
– allowing businesses to professionally train new and existing employees;
– purchasing new technology, computer equipment and software packages that aid in increased efficiency and increased production;
– property tax relief to encourage the formation of new businesses or the expansion of existing ones.

Developing a Rural CIP would be an important tool in helping businesses in the rural areas of North Grenville to contribute even further to the local economy. To be fair, they deserve the same opportunities that have already been given to some of the businesses in Kemptville.

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