By Pauline Kerr
The first meeting of what will hopefully become a Howick business association attracted a crowd of about 30 people including four members of council, municipal and county staff, Business Retention and Expansion committee members, and the local business community.
Guest speaker was Doug Barill, business development coordinator with the county’s planning and development office. Barill spoke about branding the township “so people know they’re in Howick.”
A key part of that process involves putting up large signs (cost shared between the county and municipality) that will map businesses in Howick – not just in urban areas, but rural businesses. The signs, similar to ones at urban malls that state, “You are here,” have been ordered although the decision still has to be made about their placement. The arena is a popular location for similar signs in other municipalities.
Some of the people at the meeting expressed interest in smaller maps they could display at their businesses, which could be done quite easily, according to Barill.
Barill also discussed the “Invest in Huron” initiative that’s being put together by the county.
Among the items listed in the recently completed BR&E report for Howick was the possibility of tourism. Barill noted tourism shows up “in the strangest places” - like the giant banana that was built in a Manitoba town. Howick does have some existing tourism opportunities that could be built upon – the Huron-Perth garden tour is one possibility. Barill noted people love garden tours. He also commented on the old mill in Gorrie (“I’d like to see a tea house go in there,” Barill said).
The business people at the meeting viewed the video, “Grown in Huron” that focuses on the entire county, and discussed the possibility of doing something local.
The mention of Gorrie raised the issue of property standards and the need for everyone to pitch in and make the community welcoming.
The comment was made that the “sibling rivalry” among the three urban areas of Howick has to end. There have been business associations in Howick in the past, but they were “village-specific,” not township-wide.
Reeve Art Versteeg told the group that the municipality has taken the initial step in forming a business association; if the business people want such a group, they are going to have to get involved. “The business owners have to do it,” he said.
Barill told them he and his department are available as resources, and there’s also seed money available.
Versteeg commented on the process of “building an identity” for Howick. It’s been in the works for a long time, he said, adding, “I think we’re at the point where we’re ready to do that.”
Said Coun. Shelley Miller-Cameron, “We have to work together. Council has the will, but we need you to move with us.”
Versteeg suggested holding another meeting in a month or so – anyone who’s interested should contact the municipal office (519-335-3208) or any member of the BR&E committee.
A tentative date of Thursday, Nov. 22 has been set for the next meeting. The suggested time is 8 a.m. although a noon meeting is also a possibility. People will be notified by email when details are finalized.