Economic Development Manager to Start Sooner

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.

Links

Town web site pages

Cobourg News Blog articles

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Lemon Cake
27 February 2022 8:18 am

Economic development is important for Cobourg – without local jobs the town will continue to grow as a satellite bedroom community for other larger centres like Oshawa or Toronto. Cobourg has always had local industry and it’s part of what’s made the town great. Factories etc don’t have to be the only business we aim to attract but if manufacturing brings higher paying jobs then why not?

Ken Strauss
17 February 2022 2:21 pm

Most of the comments here take it for granted that economic development (more industry) is a good thing and only discuss how to best achieve growth. Why? Why do we need additional factories? What is their benefit to the current residents? What is wrong with remaining a well maintained small town with a relatively stable population, many seniors, a waterfront and friendly people? 

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Ken Strauss
17 February 2022 5:45 pm

It’s boring.

Pete M
Reply to  Wally Keeler
18 February 2022 10:09 am

MacCoubrey s will have a steady supply of clients.

Pete M
Reply to  Wally Keeler
18 February 2022 10:13 am

Can i propose a changing the Town’ s name to Curmudgeonville
With the motto- sour is our power-

JimT
Reply to  Pete M
19 February 2022 3:01 pm

Cobourg: The Town That Time Forgot.

Pete M
Reply to  JimT
20 February 2022 8:28 am

So true.
We have Upper Canada Village… representative of what a small village looked and operated like in mid 19th century Ontario.
Cobourg…representative of what a small Ontario Town looked like and how it governed itself mid 20th Century, a living museum.

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
18 February 2022 8:36 am

Perhaps if you remove the industrial tax base Ken you will soon find out how much more expensive the cost of living in Cobourg will be. If Seniors are complaining about the high taxes now just wait until the industrial base goes.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  ben
18 February 2022 9:36 am

What Ken is proposing is stagnation, turning Cobourg into a noun, forsaking its long history as a verb in Canadian society. Cobourg, the town with lots of walker repair shops, incontinence services, diaper laundries, mobility device shops and lots of Lawrence Welk ambiance, and of course, soma shops to relieve the unrelenting boredom of slowly dying. Fresh water is often turbulent and life is like that.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
18 February 2022 9:49 am

Ben, I believe that you seriously over estimate the impact of the industrial property tax base relative to residential properties. I can’t immediately find the current values but in 2015 the total assessed value of all Cobourg properties was $2,711,451,312. The total assessed value of Cobourg’s industrial properties was only $47,369,284 or less than 2% of the total! With the huge recent increase in home prices I’m certain that the disparity is even greater today.

Carol
Reply to  Ken Strauss
18 February 2022 8:43 am

I am a senior and I don’t wish to live in a seniors community. I want to live in a healthy mixed environment and without employment you cannot attract families, young professionals, and all the services we have and love. Elliott lake has pretty much a full senior population and it’s cheap to live there. Doesn’t appeal to me living with a bunch of cheap seniors. I love seeing young people and children

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Carol
18 February 2022 9:39 am

There is no reason that Cobourg should try to appeal to only “cheap seniors” as Elliot Lake has positioned itself. Seniors want/need (and many can afford) a vast array of services — medical, PSW, gardeners, snow removal, home renovation, dining, personal shopping, handypersons, etc. Needed services range from unskilled and minimum wage work to those best provided by young professionals with families. Also, consider that seniors are not nearly as able to provide their own services as the younger set so require more services than younger residents.

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 February 2022 4:21 pm

Ken you missed Carol’s point – Doesn’t appeal to me living with a bunch of cheap seniors. I love seeing young people and children”

Maybe you do! I’m with Carol on this one.

Steve
16 February 2022 9:42 pm

Cobourg is struggling to keep up! The majority of the population is over 55, this is not attractive to larger manufacturing type businesses. We don’t offer the type of workforce big industry demands!
Experience Cobourg, Local Chambers and BIA’s are sending mixed messages, sure they want you to shop and support local, yet spend their promotional budgets with US Digital juggernauts, Google and Facebook. Consumers want speed and convenience, this is why we see so many UPS, FedEx, CanPar, Intercom and Purolator Trucks dropping several hundred amazon ecommerce parcels locally every day! If we want a better economic development future we should start to really rethink the approach and options. As the old saying goes ” if you want to show off the pony, you have to clean out the stall first”

Last edited 3 months ago by Steve
Pete M
15 February 2022 6:55 pm

Part of the Mission Statement for the Bay of Quinte economic Development

To encourage the growth and diversification of those specific industry sectors and businesses now established in the area; and
To market the Bay of Quinte Region in order to attract new sector- targeted firms to locate in the community.

I recommend everyone take a look at their website

https://quintedevelopment.com/about/

The Town of Cobourg/ Town of Port Hope and the county need to re-examine Economic Development and work together as a group and realize that if plant or company relocates to West Northumberland that all communities reap the benefits

Sandpiper
Reply to  Pete M
16 February 2022 8:59 am

I think Port Hope will be doing just fine Keven Narraway the ED manager had a open minded , diversified Council to work with their new Business park sold out and is Built Now with the addition of the Wesleyville lands and a booming down town Cobourg will again be left in the dust.
Remember Keven was terminated by the former ED managed as he was to progressive
and forward thinking .

Dunkirk
15 February 2022 4:43 pm

Economic Development is a dumpster fire of cliche’s and missed opportunities in our Town + the County whose efforts we financially support. Look around. One year it’s about ‘Vision’ the next it’s about ‘People + Partnerships’ + Possibilities’…..Looking back on previous Eco Dev plans is enough to make any of us blush. Where are those ‘possibilities’? 2010’s plan talked about the ‘new’ Park Theatre development and a new boutique hotel……(you get the idea…it’s like telling the bank you are going to repay the loan in 24 months and after 15 years you are still making interest payments…)
Hire on Contract for one year:–and pay a premium if you have to in order to attract a quality person who has done it before in Eastern Ontario (Kingston+ Belleville come to mind..)and can prepare a plan and provide an accurate assessment of what we need to do as a lakeside Town; a 401 corridor town with a great beach and a disappearing manufacturing sector .
If the plan is good–or if the new ECO Director scores some related grant funding prior, offer them a full time position.
As a ratepayer–I would like to see 3 solid, measurable Key Performance Indicators that reflect our specific goals, objectives & timelines. Not new brochures, webpages, engagement discussions and number of meetings attended. Those are too abstract. We’ve been there, done that. How about real KPI’s…..meaningful targets…..please.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dunkirk
15 February 2022 5:49 pm

Exactly, Dunkirk! Pay well for performance and replace or eliminate position if results are lacking.

Rob
Reply to  Ken Strauss
16 February 2022 3:30 pm

So offer them incentive pay – a “bonus”. We offer those in the private sector…

But the fact is, we are in the middle of a labour crisis (not a shortage) – good luck finding an “A” level, experienced, high-energy connected candidate prepared to accept a 1-year contract in Cobourg…you are over-estimating the attractiveness of that offer. You might get a new grad from BCom program for 70k…aka Tourism Liaison.

Concerned
Reply to  Dunkirk
16 February 2022 11:02 am

It’s not a director level position it is a Manager. When there is lots of work in the sector no one is going to accept a contract. Let’s be realistic in our thinking. One year to show you’re worth it. It took Amazon a few years do decide to move to Durham region. One year doesn’t give an EC D person enough time to convince a large company to come to Cobourg. They can put a plan together and put it into motion but you won’t see results in one year.

Last edited 3 months ago by Concerned
Dunkirk
Reply to  Concerned
16 February 2022 1:06 pm

Concerned–I agree–my suggestion is less than perfect, but, like many other well intentioned efforts, the way we have managed ED for decades is not working and so, we need a better way…
Right now, we’ve given ourselves a false deadline– we will advertise and receive submissions of CV’s from the usual suspects from around the region. Good people, perhaps. Accordingly, once again–our ‘results’ will neither be measured or anyone accountable. How can we do it better?

Steve
Reply to  Concerned
17 February 2022 6:26 pm

We don’t have the workforce that will attract a large business. Our population has aged and the majority is now over 55. The younger generations are not settling or staying here, because there is no long term opportunity for prosperity/

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Steve
26 February 2022 5:58 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong but as a relative newcomer I believe a choice was put forward on tourism or industry by the town a few councils ago.
The town opted for “tourism” but unfortunately it consists primarily of obvious beach “tourists” being the vast majority with its associated costs /problems with very little benefit to the town.
Employment opportunities for younger families are pretty well centred around the lower wage scale etc. I believe.
Coupled with the ever increasing cost of everything making it impossible for them to get on the housing ladder or financial security it should be no surprise that seniors are moving out here from the GTA to escape the exorbitant cost of living.
The problem is spreading elsewhere also and what strategy will control it appears to be unknown

Pete M
Reply to  Bill Thompson
26 February 2022 8:18 pm

The building of the Holiday Inn is stalled. The Woodlawn Inn is sold to be turned into a rehab centre. Suggestions of a boutique Hotel for the trailer park are routinely shot down.
So our Tourism consists of a beach that is used between May and Sept by unwanted out of towners.
Looks like Town is pivoting from Tourism to drug rehab.
Hows that Tourism thing working out for Cobourg?

Pete M
15 February 2022 3:57 pm

This is a positive. Maybe with this person’s early start, the the project for a new grocery store and plaza at King and Wilmott Street can finally start to get shovels in the ground.
Then lets get more land developed in order to be a viable attraction for industry
It would be nice to see somme industries/ businesses set up in Cobourg, rather than bypassing us for Belleville/Trenton or stopping short in Bowmanville

Sandpiper
Reply to  Pete M
16 February 2022 8:51 am

Fantastic Idea Industry , Jobs , not just the little surf side seasonal tourist shops
that pay Min. wage and part time jobs for 1 or 2 people
That means planning will have Land available to build on Now fully serviced even
We have a major lack of sanitary sewage capacity int he lines all over this town .
Any industry coming here will be wrapped up in red tape a issues for 2 or 3 yrs before a shovel ever gets in the ground . They should be building in 6 months or they — go to Bellville

ben
15 February 2022 2:39 pm

I would say that if the Town doesn’t want to give Economic Devleopment (ED) the push that it needs by hiring a Director with a proper department then the move to place the Person into Planning makes good sense.

As everybody should know the ED person just doesn’t put on a good smile and go to trade shows to drum up business to bring to Cobourg, that would be an impossible task. What sells Cobourg is the lifestyle and ambience as well as a good supply of industrial land and facilities. So the Planning Department is well placed to lead that, provided the Director is an imaginative person as opposed to being a gatekeeper for regulations and policies that will keep developers happy.

In my extensive experience most people do not realise that the most important person in attracting business, is the prospective CAO’s wife. If she/he doesn’t like Cobourg he/she ain’t coming nor is his factory.

Build a happy place in Cobourg and that’s where a progressive, imaginative and modern Planning Department is essential.

Carol
Reply to  ben
16 February 2022 9:20 am

I agree with you Ben. One other issue is qualified workers. The initiative by the manufacturers association to provide transportation to provide workers for our existing manufacturers was very creative. Many years ago when we were trying to attract business that required special training Kym Rudd who ran the Toronto school of business offered to run 24 hours a day to train the necessary personnel. Anyone looking at us looks at our workforce and obviously right now it is one area that we are lacking. I believe it should be a contract position rather than a permanent employee which then gets mired down in the politics of the town and spends their time pleasing everyone. There are people out there with connections that can make things happen it’s time we hired one of them. You only get what you pay for and if you want the expertise you have to pay for it. What is wrong with getting our existing CEOs and some retired in our area to do a round table, draw on their expertise to see what is actually needed not just armchair critics before we hire a ED person. Just my thought

Concerned
Reply to  Carol
18 February 2022 5:31 pm

If these people exist and are willing why haven’t they already stepped forward is the better question?

Jones
Reply to  ben
16 February 2022 11:48 am

A world class marina would make Cobourg a happy place. Except fort the boat haters

Pete M
Reply to  Jones
16 February 2022 12:01 pm

Too late. The time has passed and boaters have moved over to Trent Port marina. Another win for the Quinte Area

Bryan
Reply to  Pete M
16 February 2022 1:49 pm

Pete M
How many boaters have moved to Port Trenton from Cobourg?
Yes, the slip fees are lower, subsidized by the local property tax payers in the amount of $1.3M+ per year.
How is that a win?

Last edited 3 months ago by Bryan
Bryan
Reply to  Jones
16 February 2022 1:47 pm

Jones,
What would make the Cobourg Marina “world class”?
How would having a “world class” marina in Cobourg make Cobourg a happy place (whatever “happy place” means)?

Concerned
Reply to  ben
18 February 2022 5:16 pm

Well hopefully they don’t read this blog then because there sure are a lot of grumpy, negative people on here.

Deborah OConnor
Reply to  ben
26 February 2022 11:57 pm

Couldn’t you just say “partner”? Maybe the “wife” is a man, it happens here in the 21st century frequently.

MiriamM
15 February 2022 2:21 pm

Good summary John but I disagree with you on your final comment: ‘Reporting into Planning will mean a focus on new things and not so much on sustaining existing businesses.’

Planning is not just about new development or new initiatives. In larger municipalities, the parks and recreation (p&r) departments is often more aligned with planning. Or, it could be a split where p&r policy development coordinates with planning; and, daily p&r operations works more with public works. Among other things, planning also means making sure existing neighbourhoods retain their public spaces like parks and related amenities residents want or get upgrades if the existing facilities do not meet current standards and needs. The Daintry Cresent Park and need to meet accessibility standards, as example of existing public space in need of upgrade.

Smaller municipalities are often lead by strong public works departments. As these communities grow, it is the planning departments that take the lead. Businesses do indeed benefit by this approach including happier customers, happier employees and residents finding their daily shopping needs met locally.

Rob
Reply to  MiriamM
15 February 2022 4:48 pm

Planning departments intersect with many other areas of Municipal government…and it only stands to reason that Planning drives community growth (it is by definition the planning departments responsibility). I’m not sure Economic Development and Planning are an ideal marriage, however the position has to report to someone, so why not Planning. The ED role is more important now than ever – they have a tall task – high profile role for the foreseeable future.

Bryan
Reply to  Rob
15 February 2022 5:53 pm

Rob,

You wrote “….The ED role is more important now than ever – they have a tall task – high profile role for the foreseeable future….”
What do you base this assessment on?
The past ED track record is pretty dismal. Making it part of planning isn’t going to change that.

As Dunkirk commented above, “…As a ratepayer–I would like to see 3 solid, measurable Key Performance Indicators that reflect our specific goals, objectives & timelines. Not new brochures, webpages, engagement discussions and number of meetings attended. Those are too abstract. We’ve been there, done that. How about real KPI’s…..meaningful targets…..please….”

The two key points are KPIs and contract.
What are the expectations and deliverables?
The contract is needed to limit the bleeding if things don’t work out…a very real possibility.

Pete M
Reply to  Bryan
15 February 2022 6:25 pm

Hopefully this person responsibilities will be more than just filling empty stores in the downtown.
The Town needs to develop a plan to identify and increase lands for industry and manufacturing.
Then a concerted marketing plan and outreach to those businesses to really sell the Town.
In the past, the Town (councillors/staff) believed the Town would sell itself. As well, too much focus has been on the beach as an economic development that has failed to deliver.

Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
16 February 2022 10:14 am

Are you implying they hire someone on a contract?

Bryan
Reply to  Concerned
16 February 2022 11:54 pm

Concerned,
Not implying, strongly recommending a 2 year contract with KPIs and semi-annual performance reviews. As with any marketing/sales position, compensation could include a reasonable base salary and commission/bonus based on performance (meeting/exceeding KPIs)

Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
18 February 2022 5:19 pm

No one will accept a contract to prove themselves when there is lots of work and better paying than Cobourg. You get what you pay for and that plan would get you bottom of the barrel and the same complaints you’ve always had about EC D.

Rob
Reply to  Bryan
16 February 2022 11:24 am

I don’t disagreed Bryan – I work in the private sector and the lack of efficiency and accountability found in the business of Municipal government is nothing less than shocking; projects 50% complete after 1-2 years, policies that take a year to develop, the lack of focus/high level of scope creep and the regular hiring of consultants for pet projects is nonsensical; I say this with first hand experience in Municipal government. I do believe this role is critical given the economic beating Cobourg has taken over the years and I don’t expect a repeat of the last ED’s performance. I’m going to reserve judgement and have faith that the new CAO will drive results and hold her team accountable for performance and their KPI deliverables. If she doesn’t, I would suggest removing her as well.

Bryan
Reply to  Rob
16 February 2022 10:45 pm

Rob,

Good points. Next needed are the KPIs and the performance review policies

Concerned
Reply to  Rob
18 February 2022 5:22 pm

Let’s hope they get a performance appraisal system with the new HRIS system then. While your at it I bet the could probably use a new financial accounting system in finance as well. I’m sure if some one on council asked it is probably outdated.

concerned
Reply to  Rob
22 February 2022 3:35 pm

The same old boring complaint people always make about government. The oversight that exists in government does not exist in the private sector so it is always much easier to get things done. Business is about profit, government is not and never has been.

Bryan
Reply to  concerned
22 February 2022 5:30 pm

Concerned:
Your right, the oversight that exists in government does not exist in the private sector. In my experience, oversight in the private sector operates at a higher level. They have KPIs, authorization levels, performance reviews and much more. Cobourg is a $60M+ organization and has none of these.
To be fair, there is movement in a positive direction as of late, but it is painfully slow.

Last edited 3 months ago by Bryan
Rob
Reply to  Bryan
23 February 2022 10:58 am

This is very accurate – if private business operated in the manner that Government does, they would not be in business very long. I’ve worked in high-performance (highly accountable) private sector firms as well as in various public sector organizations (federal, provincial and municipal) and I found Municipal to be the least like private sector. The nature of the work, makes this a bit of apples to oranges comparison, however there are significant opportunities to tighten up on objectives, KPI’s, accountability and delivering value. Most people who work within the Municipality are talented people who want to add value and are capable of doing it, however the organizational environment/culture and doesn’t always support it.

Bryan
Reply to  Rob
23 February 2022 12:30 pm

Rob,
Well said and thanks for the confirmation.
I agree that the staff members are capable and interested in doing a good job but are held back by the Town’s organizational structure and culture.

You wrote: “… The nature of the work, makes this a bit of apples to oranges comparison…”. I agree in part. However, I think that private sector companies and the Town are similar in many ways. The Town and private sector service companies are both in the business of providing services to their “clients”. They both employ staff, buy goods and capital equipment to support their delivery of customer services.
Both need to be attentive to the needs of their “customers” and modify their service “products” in response.

Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
7 March 2022 1:05 pm

It’s painfully slow because they are understaffed for what the politicians want. They want to be a mid-size municipality but not spend money to get there. I believe the more brain power from outside you bring in the better the ideas that will come forward. You have staff who have small town ideas with little to now experience outside of that. New blood should help.

Gerinator
Reply to  Bryan
16 February 2022 7:32 pm

Bryan I would like to add that there is no basis to expect positive outcomes: No history, no basic, successful groundwork in place, no excellence to improve upon. All of this to say that the new Manager is now working what can be quaintly described as a ‘blank slate’. That is why a leader/decision maker with a history of excellence not a Manager is needed. Further agree with Miriam. Reporting into a department that is responsible for keeping the boat in good shape and enable the leaders to steer it toward the right direction – Planning is more about existence rather than innovation and, in my opinion, subjected to many of the ‘political whims and fantasies’ that cascade upon Council every year. Finally, I may be wrong, but doesn’t the Planning and Development department own the current situation facing this Town re – the conditioning of the Piers and Marina? So I predict that this to shall pass.

ben
Reply to  Gerinator
16 February 2022 9:45 pm

I may be wrong, but doesn’t the Planning and Development department own the current situation facing this Town re – the conditioning of the Piers and Marina?

Where did you get this idea from?

Last edited 3 months ago by Ben
Gerinator
Reply to  ben
18 February 2022 9:41 am

Thank you and Bryan for correcting me. l agree with Bryan, probably Works Dept.

Bryan
Reply to  Gerinator
16 February 2022 11:00 pm

Gerinator,

I agree that if the Town is to have an ED dept it should be led by a dynamic experienced marketing/sales person reporting to the CAO. The new planning director doesn’t have the knowledge/experience to lead an ED dept.
I fear the ED dept will perform much the same as the prior ones

I believe that Works and to a lesser degree Parks, are responsible for the sad condition of the East Pier and harbour. Parks may nominally “own” the harbour but the problems of failing infrastructure are (should be) the responsibility of the Works dept..

Concerned
Reply to  Gerinator
18 February 2022 5:25 pm

Planning does not. Whatever department is in charge of each item. It’s about life cycling maintenance, reserve planning for major projects. So it is the responsibility of many.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Rob
16 February 2022 8:40 am

Not sure I like the Idea of a Councilor with Self employment background not being one of the persons to report to . To many past secrets , Trips to China , and Wendy G and her Neverending Contract that failed to produce .
I still think we need to hear from all those Businesses that failed to survive in this Down town over the years There must be at least 50 and their points of view on the matter , or is Council afraid of what they might hear