Kincardine economic future includes natural gas, development opportunities

Section: 
News

By Barb McKay

 

Natural gas, serviced development land and a new high school are front of mind for Kincardine’s new economic development task force, which is working towards turning goals into reality.

 

In the past several years, the role of economic development in the municipality has changed a number of times. Less than a decade ago, it was a committee of council. The municipality also had an economic development officer, Stephen Murray, who has since taken on that role in Meaford. In 2011, the municipality contracted the Penetangore Regional Economic Development Corporation (PREDC) to look after economic development for it, but council voted to terminate the agreement in January 2015.

 

Municipality of Kincardine CAO Murray Clarke, whose office assumed the responsibility of economic development at the first of the year, sat down with The Independent on Friday to talk about how the function will be carried out going forward. The newly-formed economic development task force, a committee of council, held its second meeting on Thursday and came to a consensus on areas that need attention.

 

“This approach of creating an economic development task force with a broad range of representation I think is proving to be a valid approach, and it is encouraging,” Clarke said.

 

The task force is chaired by Kincardine councillor Mike Leggett, with mayor Anne Eadie and deputy mayor Jacqueline Faubert as other council representatives. Clarke also sits on the committee. Other members include Chamber of Commerce president Matt Smith, BIA chair Lori Smith, Megan Adams of Bruce Power, Linda Bowers of PREDC, Allan Webster of OPG, Ken Bridge of the Bruce County Federation of Agriculture and Barb Fisher of Bruce Community Futures Development Corporation. Don Jones and Norm Ribey are members-at-large.

 

The task force also has a support team made up of Kara Van Myall from the County of Bruce economic development department, Kincardine BIA downtown development manager Rick Clarke, Kincardine tourism co-ordinator Kelly McDonald, physician recruiter Peggy Zeppieri and Corinne Cleary of the CAO’s department.

 

Clarke said some of the items that were singled out as priorities during an economic development forum held at the Kincardine Pavilion last October are already underway or complete. The second phase of the Kincardine Centre for the Arts is finished and public washrooms at Victoria Park opened on May 20. The reconstruction of the municipal parking lot behind Queen Street is on track to be completed this month. A project to extend Wi-Fi service to the downtown core is also close to becoming a reality.

 

“On the tourism side we are in extremely healthy shape and we are fortunate that the amenities we have are world class, and our Scottish theme will serve us well for a long time to come,” Clarke said.

 

Physician recruitment is a priority and three new doctors will join the Hawthorne Community Clinic and the Kincardine hospital emergency department later this year.

 

“We have gone from famine to feast in regards to physician recruitment,” Clarke said, adding that another announcement is expected soon.

 

The municipality has committed $300,000 to fund studies that are expected to progress the Kincardine hospital redevelopment project. Having an adequate hospital and enough doctors to serve the population are important for attracting new businesses, Clarke said. So are schools. Kincardine has a lot going for it, he said, with beautiful beaches, recreation options, extensive trails and a charming downtown.

 

“But what about education? The high school was a real focus at our meeting (Thursday).”

 

The Kincardine and District Secondary School building is aging and class sizes that are increasing in the younger grades will soon move up into the high school.

 

“We see what is happening with our demographic here and our high school won’t cut it,” Clarke said.

 

He said the committee will encourage council to do what it can to further the conversation about the need for a new high school with the Bluewater District School Board.

 

High on the list of priorities is the continued work to bring natural gas service to the municipality and the need to have development land that is serviced with municipal water and sewers. The environmental assessment master plan for land south of the Meridian location on Highway 21, and including the SMART Centres land, is expected to be complete in just a few weeks.

 

“That will be an impetus to developing that land,” Clarke said.

 

He said the committee feels very strongly that serviced commercial land in Kincardine is a goal.

 

“How that is done remains to be seen.”

 

The new Marriott hotel on Millennium Way is now open and Clarke plans to talk to the developer, Arif Ismail, about plans for the remainder of the 30 acres that his company owns.

 

Now that the hotel is open for business, hosting the Mocha Shriners Convention this weekend, there is a focus on attracting more conventions and business functions to the community. The economic development task force discussed inviting a group of conference specialists and planners and taking them on a tour of Kincardine to show them why the town would be a great place to hold functions.

 

“We want to put Kincardine top of mind for conferences and business meetings,” Clarke said.

 

Other ideas to improve economic development, and tourism, that are being considered are the creation of a Town Crier and rest stop at the former airport house property.

 

The economic development task force meets the third Thursday of each month at 5 p.m. at the municipal administration centre. Clark said he would encourage members of the public to come out and also to share ideas they may have for furthering economic development in Kincardine. The minutes of each meeting are posted on the municipal website at www.kincardine.net.