The South Algonquin Business Alliance has been asking the township council when the next economic development committee meeting will be taking place, especially as they have one of their members, Barney Baker, now on this committee, and they’d like to get to work on the township’s economic development as soon as possible. South Algonquin’s CAO/clerk-treasurer Bryan Martin and SABA’s chair Dr. Angela Pollak, comment on this issue.
Martin said that the next economic development committee meeting would take place when directed by council and that the council meeting schedule does not include an economic development meeting. “[Council] is anticipating the delivery of an updated strategic plan on Dec. 6. Once council has determined its strategic priority, work plans for the municipality and staff will be established for the term of council and [an economic development committee] meeting shall be established in accordance with fulfilling that strategic vision,” he says.
Pollak told The Bancroft Times that SABA is pleased to see any movement on the scheduling of an economic development meeting, but respectfully suggests that they are not dependent on a strategic plan any more than asset management or waste management meetings are. “We’ve already lost a quarter of council’s term. In that time, economic development has been downgraded from a committee of the whole to a subcommittee. In another illusion of progress, council voted in May to give SABA a seat on this committee that never meets,” she says.
SABA is a non-exclusive group of community business leaders focused on creating a thriving community for people to live, work and play in, in South Algonquin Township. They’ve assisted local businesses access funding totalling $1.7 million to improve infrastructure accessibility over five years, including $300,000 to upgrade their local trail system. More information on SABA can be found at www.mysouthalgonquin.ca.
The last economic development committee meeting held in South Algonquin was back in April, 2022. Pollak says that while they wait for what she thinks is council diluting the value of economic development further, she cites seven commercial properties for sale in the township, Opeongo Outfitters closing its doors for the last time in 87 years, a busy service station that hasn’t had any luck finding a buyer, a population drop of another five per cent in the most recent census, and seasonal workers having less access to EI than they need to manage the shortfall as evidence of the township’s lack of focus on economic development. “After another year of tourist visit declines, businesses are suffering and so is our community. More closures are on the horizon in the coming year. Whether council is ready or not, change is already here. We encourage council to schedule a proper economic development committee meeting this fall and to come to the table prepared to work collaboratively toward a stronger local economy,” she says. “Our future depends on it.”
Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times