RED grant allows hiring of Economic Development Officer

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The Municipality of Merrickville-Wolford has been successful in their application for a Rural Economic Development (RED) grant through OMAFRA. The roughly $98,000 grant will help with many economic development initiatives in the municipality, including the hiring of their first ever Economic Development Officer (EDO). “We have never had one before,” says Deputy Mayor, Anne Barr, who is the council liaison on the Economic Development Committee. “In a small municipality, it is hard to find enough work for one dedicated person.”

Anne believes that it makes sense for the community to have an EDO right now, as Council looks at implementing some of the initiatives set out in the Strategic Plan and using information gathered by the Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) project. “There is going to be a lot of work in the next two years,” she says.

The EDO will be a full-time contract position, which will end when the grant money runs out in June, 2020. It is hoped that, at that point, the EDO will be able to put together a report outlining immediate and long-term opportunities for the municipality, plotting a vision for the future. “There is a more dynamic environment in Merrickville-Wolford these days,” says Yves Grandmaitre, member of the Economic Development Committee. “Le Boat is putting Merrickville on the world stage now.”

Anne says they are also looking for new opportunities for promoting the municipality outside the urban area. Things like small organic farming and bicycle tourism are areas that they see as possibilities for promoting Wolford ward. “We’d like to diversify our economy,” she says.

The funding will also help pay for projects that support economic development, and the work that the EDO will be doing. Administration costs, website development, survey and data collection, business workshops and summits, marketing and advertising are all on the list of items that the municipality will be investing in because of this grant. The total budget for these initiatives, as well as the salary of the EDO, comes to $210,000, almost half of which will be covered by the grant, with the other $112,000 covered by the municipality.

Yves says credit is due to all the volunteers who worked hard on the municipality’s Strategic Plan, which made obtaining the RED grant possible. The advertisement for an EDO was posted last week, and will run until June 20. Anne says council will be working with the Economic Development Committee to choose the best candidate for the position.

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