North Huron to consider hiring an economic development professional
BY DENNY SCOTT
North Huron Council agrees with the recommendation of its economic development and recovery committee and will soon begin investigating the hiring of an economic development professional.
During council’s Monday night meeting, the recommendation came forward with Councillor Kevin Falconer saying it made sense.
“The economic development committee is made up of business people,” he said. “It’s a great organization for brainstorming and thinking of ways to promote businesses in our community and drive economic development.”
Where the group fell short, however, was implementation, Falconer said. Members all have their own businesses to run, so enacting plans has been difficult.
Councillor Chris Palmer was against the move, asking if North Huron could really afford to hire someone, especially given the recent service delivery review prepared by KPMG Consulting, which suggested North Huron Council consider hiring information technology and human resource professionals.
“This is a hard thing for me to accept,” Palmer said. “Yes, we need land, area [and development], but salaries are [already] growing by $122,000 this year after increasing by $140,000 last year.”
Palmer was speaking of both the grid movements and cost of living adjustments made to staff wages for the 2021 budget, which had been discussed earlier in the meeting. He said it will require significant assessment increases to cover those costs before considering hiring another professional.
“We can’t afford this stuff,” he said.
Falconer agreed that the tax base is already stretched thin, however North Huron Council couldn’t continue to do the same thing and expect different results, saying new stores and new development won’t happen without someone to push for them.
Palmer then said he thought Chief Administrative Officer Dwayne Evans was handling the position. Evans said he was, but in a passive way.
While he could handle inquiries that came to the municipality, he wasn’t out “knocking on doors” to try and bring development to North Huron.
Palmer then asked about other municipalities with economic development professionals and Bailey pointed to Palmerston and Harriston in the Town of Minto which, he said, were very successful in terms of development because of the municipality’s economic development officer.
Deputy-Reeve Trevor Seip said hiring an economic development professional would require North Huron staff and council to set out benchmarks to make sure the investment was worthwhile. He said the last economic development officer the municipality had was more of a community development person, and that economic development wasn’t necessarily tied to that person’s efforts.
“This needs to be a long-standing commitment,” he said. “They need to prove their worth.”
Council carried a motion to investigate hiring an economic development professional.