Economic Development versus The Pandemic
Town of Caledon moves forward with 10-year economic development strategy
What would you do if your team were on the verge of launching a major economic development strategy for your municipality and your community is faced with the single largest economic crisis since the Great Depression?
Making a Tough Decision During a Difficult Time
On March 4, 2020, the Town of Caledon council was sent an email with the final draft of the town’s new 10-year Economic Development Strategy (EDS). This email was an important milestone toward the completion of the EDS and showcased months of work by the town’s Economic Development & Tourism team and their consultant. Just over a week later, schools and businesses were closing due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), with more drastic measures to follow in the coming weeks.
Nevertheless, the town decided to move the EDS forward for approval. This decision was based on three key factors.
1. Community growth
A lower-tier municipality about an hour northwest of Toronto, Caledon is still primarily a rural community but with increasing urbanization, with a population that will more than double (70,000+ to 150,000) in the next 20 years.
The expectation is that employment growth will accompany all this new population. This growth does not happen on its own. You need a plan in place to help create an economic environment that will support that type of growth. While that growth is likely to slow following COVID-19, the town needs to be prepared and the EDS helps do that.
2. COVID-19 recovery
Caledon businesses, like other communities, have been devastated as a result of COVID-19. The Strategy has 46 total recommendations in four key priority areas:
- support an entrepreneurial and small business economy;
- focus on business retention and growth;
- improve our quality of place; and
- enhance our investment readiness.
Of the 46 recommendations, 31 (67 percent) are scheduled for the first two years of the EDS. This means that while the Strategy is a long-term plan, there will be significant deliverables in the near term, especially in our support of entrepreneurs and small business communities, to assist in strengthening our local economic environment and helping with COVID-19 recovery efforts.
3. Political support
Upon their election in the fall of 2018, Caledon council identified the creation of a new economic development strategy as one of their priorities for the term. Council recognized the need to gather new data on our economy and clearly identify potential actions, both external and internal to the town, that will help Caledon reach its economic potential.
Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson, in advance of the presentation of the strategy to council, summarized very well the decision to move the strategy forward: “This economic development strategy will provide the town with a very strong car frame. Following COVID-19, we’ll drop the engine in and get our economy revved up!” The research and fundamental principles and themes identified in the Strategy continue to be relevant and significant for helping determine the town’s future economic direction.
Strategy Receives Council Approval
On April 28, town council approved the EDS. It was clear from the discussion that the COVID-19 impact on business weighs heavily on the minds of Caledon’s council and yet there was virtually no debate about the timing of bringing the strategy forward during COVID-19. Council was very focused on moving forward with implementation; and, given our troubling economic times and the need for definitive action, staff are more than happy to oblige. MW
✯ Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in Kadie Ward’s article: The economic imperative – Part 1: Markets are conversations. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.
David Arbuckle is the General Manager, Strategic Initiatives with the Town of Caledon. From a strong municipal, political, and private sector base, David continually seeks opportunities to learn about issues related to municipal governance and leadership.
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