KEMPTVILLE – Responding to the new economic realities was the focus at the Leeds Grenville Economic Development Summit.
The Honourable Peter Bethlenfalvy, Ontario’s Minister of Finance, delivered the first keynote address on the government’s “Plan to Build,” including strengthening the economy and Ontario’s workforce while keeping costs down for families and businesses.
“When faced with this degree of uncertainty, we need to be flexible and forward thinking with a fiscal plan that is ready to support people and businesses when, and if, the time comes, while also laying a strong fiscal foundation for future generations,” Minister Bethlenfalvy said.
Pierre Cléroux, Vice President, Research and Chief Economist at BDC, was the event’s second keynote. Mr. Cléroux said labour shortages will remain a major challenge for several years but global supply chain issues are slowly easing.
“The economy is going to be bumpy. Economic growth is slowing down but we don't expect a recession, Mr. Cléroux said.
The event, being held in-person for the first time since 2019, was hosted by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville Economic Development Office in partnership with Michael Barrett, M.P., the Hon. Steve Clark, M.P.P., the Eastern Workforce Innovation Board and the 1000 Islands, Grenville and Valley Heartland Community Futures Development Corporations.
“Businesses confronted the pandemic head on, and for many they have adjusted and created new opportunities that have resulted in growth,” said Ann Weir, Manager of the Leeds Grenville Economic Development Office. Ms. Weir, who was MC for the event, shared the results of the 2022 Fall Business Survey in her annual Economic Development Update to the summit audience.
“Nearly 70% of businesses indicated their business activity level today, compared to pre-COVID levels, is the same or higher,” Ms. Weir said of responses taken from 340 Leeds Grenville businesses.
A highlight of the summit was the “Going Digital,” session with testimonials from local business owners Norma Banford, Shelley Mitchell and Nicole Hudson. The pandemic has brought to light the importance of having your business online. In Leeds Grenville, close to 1,300 small businesses have benefitted from the highly successful Digital Main Street Program. Over 220 have received grants.
A panel discussion on “Welcoming a Diversified Workforce” reviewed how companies can leverage programs to build and fulfill their staffing needs, including immigration. Participants are listed in the photo below.
Additional highlights included special presentations by:
- Clayton Jones, President and CEO of Johnstown’s CREWS (Canadian Rail Equipment Works and Services Inc.). Clayton outlined how his business has expanded in recent years.
- Bonnie Ruddock, Executive Director of Region 9 Regional Tourism Organization. Bonnie discussed collaborations with Leeds Grenville businesses and organizations and initiatives to grown tourism visitation revenues and investment.