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Lake of Bays considers economic development challenges
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Lake of Bays considers economic development challenges

Posted: 2024-06-05 07:17:55 By: thebay

Lake of Bays Council considered the economic development challenges they are facing, in the June 4, 2024, meeting.

Catharine Oosterbaan, of Oosterbaan Strategy and KLB Consulting, presented Council with an update about where they stand and potential opportunities for next steps.

According to Oosterbaan, current challenges for the Township include attainable/affordable housing, lack of transit, retaining employees, job quality, lake access, lack of youth, seasonality, and business and community diversity.

Oosterbaan indicated that only “10.3% of the population are immigrants.” She added that the Township had 10 immigrants move there between 2011 and 2021. Therefore, being accessible is also an issue.

She advised that the Township is a leader in the permitting process, although making that more accessible and clearer is a potential area of focus.

Regarding her consultations with the community, she said people expressed an interest in seeing more restaurants, retail outlets, cafes, and veterinarian services. (Apparently the vet services are coming.)

She suggested that opportunities for the Township include “embracing planning and building relationships,” developing arts and culture, increased awareness of the community and businesses in it, recreational rentals, lake access, homecare for the aging population, healthcare, and an environmental economic sector.

Building communication and partnerships between businesses, supporting workforce development and entrepreneurship, and transit are also key factors said Oosterbaan.

Her report indicates the goal is to “attract, support, and retain strategic investment in the community.”

It adds, “Develop Lake of Bays destination for residents and visitors.”

Councillor, Mike Peppard, indicated that a lot of business owners have tried some of these suggestions, such as having community business meetings, and are burnt out from trying and/or volunteering because it’s the same people participating for years.

Councillor, Robert Lacroix, suggested they use signage on highway 117 to help attract people to a more scenic route to Algonquin Park to help with tourism.

The Mayor, Terry Glover, suggested that some of the challenge with the plan is financial, including affording a transit system, and having the manpower for the initiatives.

He also mentioned the housing issue and the challenge that goes with determining what’s affordable and/or attainable.

He expressed sadness about the lack of immigrants in the Township, compared to the many new Canadians in Huntsville.

Peppard questioned the capacity of the Township. He said, “How much can we handle as a Township as well.”

Councillor, Nancy Tapley, suggested that there are limitations within the private sector. She said, “We have to be careful we don’t step on their toes. We can encourage. We can’t impose.”

She added that they had a bus going to Huntsville and Bracebridge at one time, however, the lack of passengers wasn’t enough for it to continue.

Councillor, Rick Brooks, said, “As a community, we need to have a buy in for anything to work.”

He added that the Township focus on its strengths. He said, “Work on what you do have. What are your best attributes? Everybody has warts, but everybody has some good things too.” He suggested they figure out a way to work through the concerns.

Glover suggested their new staff can choose about ten items on the list and begin working on them.

He added that the timing is good for tackling fresh perspectives “and improving the playing field for the businesses that we do have.”

Oosterbaan will put the strategies into an action plan and bring it forward to Council next month.