Creating a brand identity that differentiates Minden Hills from the rest of the county is one of the recommendations laid out in an economic development strategic plan for the township.
Councillors accepted the draft plan from consultant Jay Amer of Amer and Associates during an Aug. 9 meeting.
The plan was created during the last year and has included public consultations as well as meetings between Amer and local residents who were members of an economic development task force.
“We’re at the final stage we’re ready to implement and monitor the strategic plan” Amer told councillors.
Among the recommendations in the plan is the creation of a marketing strategy that will differentiate Minden Hills from other destinations in Haliburton County.
“You’re part of Haliburton County but I think there’s a need to differentiate Minden Hills and the Minden Hills experience versus the village of Haliburton” Amer told councillors
A section of the plan reads: “Historically Minden Hills and Haliburton County are recognized as premier visitor and lifestyle destination however there is brand confusion between Minden Hills and other destinations in Haliburton including Haliburton Village. The Minden Hills experience extends to smaller settlements that enhance the economic development potential for the township however there is limited online information available to differentiate Minden Hills and highlight its unique opportunities experiences and commercial offerings. There appears to be limited interaction (information upload) with the regional tourism organization nor is there any dedicated Minden Hills profile on any regional tourism websites other than references on the township website. More than 80 per cent of prospective tourism customers start their research on the internet and it is imperative that tourism and other economic development information content be managed effectively consistently updated and aligned with upper level and provincial resources.”
While economic development within Haliburton County is a responsibility allotted to each of its four lower-tier townships respectively tourism marketing for the entire county is done at the upper-tier level through the county’s tourism department.
Minden Hills is the process of hiring an economic development destination and marketing officer a position Amer said would be important moving forward. The plan also indicated that economic development work should be taking place at the upper-tier level.
“Economic development best practice includes assignment of a dedicated resource to plan and co-ordinate municipal economic development activities” it reads. “This is particularly important for Minden Hills as there is currently no official economic development resource support at the local level or the upper tier. (Note: during the course of this study a formal search for an economic development staff resource was initiated by the township.) In an ideal situation an upper tier municipality would support an overarching economic development resource as is a common practice through dedication of lower tier funds so that support can be provided cross-jurisdictionally as in reality from a global perspective promoting economic development from a regional perspective starting with the county level may contribute to more successful returns. There are currently no formal plans to implement this support although it was an approach recommended by several stakeholders in the consultation phase.”
Other recommendations included continued investment in the expansion of high-speed internet flood mitigation transportation improvements the creation of a business improvement area and the continued revitalization of Minden’s downtown.
The study also identified the largest industries in Minden Hills. They include retail; health care and social assistance; accommodation and food services; construction; public administration; administrative and support waste management and remediation services; educational services; utilities; and finance and insurance.
Compared to some similar communities included in a benchmarking section in the plan Minden Hills is ahead of the pack on job growth rate.
“Three rural Ontario communities with similar attributes and opportunities as Minden Hills were reviewed and evaluated to provide insights into current economic development activities and strategies” the plan reads. “Cavan Monaghan Gravenhurst and Prince Edward County were selected and community reviews completed for information purposes.”
Those reviews showed that after experiencing significant job losses in 2008 related to the global recession between 2012 and 2018 job growth in Minden Hills was 29 per cent. The figures for Cavan Monaghan Gravenhurst and Prince Edward County were 27 18 and 17 per cent respectively.
According the plan one of the sectors that is expected to grow significantly in Haliburton County in coming years is the agri-food business including culinary establishments with 15 per cent growth in the sector forecasted between 2017 and 2024.
“There is growth potential and local interest in supporting the development of the sector through industry organizations and programs focused mostly on small niche producers and attracting new employers in specialized food production” it reads. “Available Minden Hills data indicates minimal recorded jobs in the agricultural sector however with 20 per cent self-employment and significant indeterminate business establishments some of which may support this sector the community is position to contribute to grown in this sector for both local and tourism impacts with the current interest and popularity of local food initiatives.”
As for measuring the success of the plan over time it makes reference to a guidebook for economic development professionals complied by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs called Measuring Up!
“This resource outlines performance measurement concepts and processes” it reads. “It builds awareness and develops the skills needed to successfully integrate performance measurement in an economic planning process. The guidebook introduces performance measurement provides a step-by-step systematic approach to developing measures and offers a variety of examples and templates. As part of this report it is recommended that the Township of Minden Hills determine its deliverables beyond publication of the report and set timelines for implementation with reporting to stakeholders. Regular reporting on research outcomes contributes significantly to stakeholder support. This emerging best practice is a standard requirement in economic development and related support organization services delivery.”