Region focused on tourism.
Muskoka; the name itself speaks of vacation paradise. Its countryside is filled with trees and lakes a mere two hours away from Toronto. Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russel and Martin Short have each made it a summer home at one point or another, along with scads of National Hockey League stars.
It is also a place people call home and make their living.
"Overall, one of our primary drivers are tourism and recreation," says District of Muskoka commissioner of economic development Marg French. "The towns (Brace-bridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville) are more the industrial/business sector, while in the townships (Georgian Bay, Muskoka Lakes and Lake Of Bays) is where small service business and home-based business are really flourishing.
"These small businesses are a benefit to our area because frequently small business becomes bigger business," she says. "I think the reason they have come here is because of the lifestyle."
The Town of Bracebridge was recently hit hard by news in August that Fenner-Dunlop, formerly Scandura, which produces belting for the mining and aggregate industry, was shutting down its Bracebridge plant and laying off 71 people, says Bracebridge economic development officer Cheryl Kelley. Economic conditions were blamed for the shut down, she says, although it may open in one to three years, depending on the economy.
Bracebridge had already developed an economic development plan, but the closure of Scandura and that of Alcan two years ago has placed a greater emphasis on the work that is being done. Several businesses, such as Home Depot and Kelsey's, have or are locating in Bracebridge and the town is also in the process of developing a light industrial/commercial "park," says Kelley. It will consist of 18 lots with five buildings going up on Taylor Court near the north entrance to Bracebridge, off Highway 11.
She says the community also began its own Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) program. Community volunteers will be interviewing local business owners about issues that affect them. It is estimated 80 local businesses will be interviewed.
"It's an entirely voluntary community effort with a lot of retired business people who are going in to meet the business owners and do the survey," says Kelley.
The effort already paid dividends when it helped prevent the departure of a local business leaving, which would have meant the elimination of over 300 jobs. Kelley was unable to give much detail except to say...
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