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Economic development under the microscope

Economic development in Dryden is in for a badly needed reboot.
Economic development in Dryden is in for a badly needed reboot.

Economic development in Dryden is in for a badly needed reboot.

A fresh set of eyes will be delving into the creation of a five-year strategy to guide the activity of the Dryden Development Corporation (DDC) to grow business from within and attract international investment.

The municipality of 7,600 has been without an economic development manager since the resignation of James Harvey in 2012.

Nicole Gale, the DDC’s office manager, has been filling in an interim basis.

In May, a contract was awarded to the consulting firms of Miller Dickinson Blais and OCO Global, who are tag-teaming on an economic development strategy plan and an industry specific attraction plan.

Gale said they’re tasked with identifying key sectors and opportunities for development that would be a good fit for the Dryden area.

The consultants will examine Dryden’s traditional sectors in forestry, mining and agriculture, but also apply some outside-the-box thinking as well.

“As far as action items, we haven’t outlined any specific sectors to focus on because they have to do some engagement activity in the community,” said Gale.

The consultants will schedule a series of one-on-one interviews with local business leaders, stage a group workshop, and meet with the DDC board of directors.

“Some of the feedback they’re going to get is going to point them in certain directions,” said Gale.

“And I want it to be community-based rather than what I feel, or what council should feel, it should be.

“We’ll have some input in the process, but I still want it to be grassroots.”

A preliminary draft report from the consultants will be available for the DDC board to review in early September.

A final report will be released to the general public shortly thereafter.

The finished document will serve as the “bible or work plan” for a new economic development manager to start with.

“I want something that the economic development manager can sink their teeth into and follow up on leads,” said Gale.

Gale said the last strategic plan dated back to 2008 and was in definite need of updating.

After a Municipal Property Assessment Corporation ruling went against the city there were rumblings whether the DDC was going to survive as the municipality was forced to do some belt-tightening.

“Our area got hit harder than some. It was like, what do we define as core services as far as what chunk of the pie is left?”

The municipality now has an application submitted to access a $3.1-million pool of federal funding announced by Kenora MP Greg Rickford earlier this year for local communities to hire economic development personnel.

“We’re all wishing we had more feet on the ground,” said Gale, who’s been handling the tourism, investment attraction and business files for more than two years.

“It’s not a Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 type of job.”

One sector that shows promise for her successor to watch is in biomass crop production.

The DDC has been working with a forest regeneration company, PRT Growing Services, on a field trial for growing willow trees for possible use as woody biomass for energy generation.