In the Spring of 2019, Cobourg’s “Economic Development Officer” Wendy Gibson retired and was not replaced. Soon after, the Economic Development Advisory Committee was dissolved and since then we’ve only had a “Small Business facilitator” – there has been no serious effort led by a manager to attract or retain businesses for Cobourg. But there are now moves to hire an Economic Development Manager. Budget was allocated for a July 1 start but because of budget savings, CAO Tracey Vaughan asked Council for approval to instead start this manager on April 18. Further, Tracey wants this new manager to report to the Director of Planning and Development so as to avoid the disconnect/ disjointed processes and reduce potential frustration on the part of business owners.
At their Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting on Monday, Council approved the changes although it will need ratification at the regular Council meeting on 22 February.
One of the last major projects that Wendy’s small department led was Downtown Vitalization. It seemed a good idea at the time but there were no noticeable changes that resulted. Once again a consultant was hired and made a report. The big recommendation was the CIVIC plan – the idea was for the Town to spend millions on buying downtown properties to basically start the ball rolling and set an example. This eventually morphed into the Downtown Community Improvement plan (CIP) where relatively small amounts are granted or lent to property owners to spruce up their buildings.
The Town’s web site still has a page on Vitalization and even had a newsletter – now defunct. There is also a web site called “Start Here” which tries to promote business (link below). But currently, there is no leadership.
At one point, it seemed that Cobourg would have a large department much like the County which has a Director of Economic Development and Tourism. However, soon after Wendy left, Tourism was moved into the department now called Community Services. It seems that Cobourg does not see Tourism as a source of Economic Development.
It will be interesting to see what initiatives a Manager of Economic Development will bring. Reporting into Planning will mean a focus on new things and not so much on sustaining existing businesses.
Town web site pages
Cobourg News Blog articles
- Report on Downtown Vitalization to Date – 11 Feb 2019
- Changes recommended for Advisory Committees – 23 Jan 2019