Agriculture, tourism, transportation and sustainability are among priorities for Niagara, identified in a strategy being developed to guide the region’s economic growth for the next decade.
Niagara Economic Development associate director Valerie Kuhns updated regional councillors on its progress during a planning and economic development committee meeting Wednesday.
Kuhns said the report is based on stakeholder engagement sessions, conducted late last year by Calgary-based consultant Intelligent Futures, including “with as many people from as many different perspectives as possible.”
She said several “key themes” were identified, such as agricultural businesses, manufacturing, tourism, diversity and inclusiveness, governance, business investment, education, infrastructure and transportation, and green developments and sustainability.
Kuhns said the final report, to be presented to council for consideration in late spring, will expand on several of those themes to include new opportunities and emerging sectors, as well as supports needed to allow more people to get jobs, such as affordable housing and childcare.
“There were a number of comments around infrastructure and transportation, including opportunities around the expansion of the GO train, the airport, advocacy to upper levels of government for infrastructure funding, zero-emission transportation and development paying for infrastructure,” she said.
Other priorities include showcasing the region globally as a location for investment as well as providing support for small business.
Kuhns said several priority activities for economic development that were identified during the study are already being done, such as marketing and promotion, promoting government funding programs and resident attraction.
She said other priorities have been implemented to help businesses during the pandemic, such as promoting buy-local strategies and programs to improve the online presence for businesses.
Kuhns said Intelligent Futures is finalizing its report on stakeholder consultations.
She said that draft 10-year strategy will be presented to the economic development strategy advisory council in April for comment before a finalized version is presented to the planning and economic development committee for consideration.
Kuhns said committee members will be asked to consider the region’s new official plan, at the same meeting in June.
“There’s a strong alignment between the two documents, so it’s appropriate that the committee consider them at the same time,” she said.
If approved, implementation of the strategy will begin next January.