In 2018 the United Counties of Leeds & Grenville (the Counties), the Township of Rideau Lakes and the Townships of Augusta and Merrickville-Wolford partnered in a multi-level Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) project, engaging existing businesses across Leeds and Grenville to identify their needs, concerns and opportunities. BR+E is a structured approach developed by OMAFRA that uses a combination of trained staff and volunteers to conduct systematic confidential interviews with businesses. Data analysis and action planning is then undertaken to address issues and take advantage of opportunities. Using OMAFRA’s templated process means that results can be compared with other communities who have done BR+E projects across Ontario and can be combined to provide regional and provincial insights.
Rideau Lakes’ goals in partnering on this project are to:
- Assess and generate better understanding of the economic development needs and opportunities
- Build and improve relations with our local businesses
- Identify actions the Township can take to support business competitiveness, growth and innovation
With the Counties taking the lead role, the four-stage project was launched in the summer of 2018.
Stage 1: Preparation
Counties’ staff worked with Rideau Lakes staff to confirm the number and types of local businesses needed to make sure we had a good representation and an adequate sample size. The Economic Development Committee identified an interest in adding in separate surveys for tourism and agricultural businesses, and requested the addition of four Rideau Lakes-specific questions about participation in local festivals, long-term vision, short-term priorities and how to support business development and growth. Staff and volunteers received training in delivering the surveys and appointments were made with participating businesses.
Stage 2: Collect and analyze
65 interviews were held with Rideau Lakes businesses from the fall of 2018 to early 2019. Each interview lasted over an hour and provided rich insight into the challenges and opportunities faced by business owners.
Stage 3: Develop Goals and Action Plans
In early spring, lead staff from the United Counties Economic Development Office, along with representatives from OMAFRA and Queen’s University Executive Decision Centre, led a workshop with participating business owners, members of Rideau Lakes Economic Development Committee and Council to review the data collected, identify priorities and develop a list of possible actions.
The priorities and draft action items were put into a final report, along with the survey responses and comments, and presented to the Economic Development Committee on August 12, 2019.
Fall 2019: The next step is to communicate the results and confirm the priorities and actions. This will be done through an Open House planned for the fall.
Winter 2019: Staff will develop a draft Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan for review by the Economic Development Committee and approval by Council.