Update on tourism and economic development matters

I am pleased to share this overview of current tourism and economic development matters and outline year-to-date progress we have made, particularly since the adoption of the Mandate and Operations Review by consultant Michael Rowland dated January 17, 2017.  The following update was delivered at a dedicated meeting on economic and tourism development matters with the County's Planning & Development Committee on October 26, 2017. 

I've divided this into two sections: 1) Highlights and Success Stories and 2) Report on the Success Measures Scorecard.  The Highlights and Success Stories are more of a qualitative overview of what has taken place over the past 12 months while the Report on the Success Measures Scorecard provides more of a quantitative assessment.

First, staff in the Econonmic and Tourism Development Unit keep track of incoming communications and meeting requests with members of the public and local organizations (not a measure of how staff spent time overall and this does not include incoming inquiries that the Small Business Coordinator handles). 44% of incoming inquiries involved requests to serve as a resource to local organizations and projects in the County and providing community development assistance.  Some examples of this include:

-       Working with the North Hastings Economic Development Committee on plans to develop non-motorized trails;

-       Assisting a member municipality with a desire to attract investment to a vacant property;

-       Supporting volunteers in Madoc who wanted to form the Business Improvement Team;

-       Attending and meeting with members of the Coe Hill Business Association and providing advice on their desire to market the area;

-       Assisting the Town of Deseronto with a gathering of local business owners; and

-       Supporting Harvest Hastings with their strategic plan, new website and marketing.


1)    Highlights and Success Stories

Supporting business and self-employment

  • Hired a Small Business Coordinator, Mr. Mark Hanley, in April, 2017.  This is a full-time position replacing the previously part-time position of Enterprise Facilitation Coordinator.  The position was vacant for almost a year when Mark was hired, and extensive effort was required to create awareness of the new position and to re-establish the networks the previous two staff persons had developed requiring several one-on-one meetings with stakeholders.  In addition, at least nineteen formal presentations were made to organizations including the Municipality of Tweed Council, the Maynooth and Hastings Highlands Business Association and the Hastings County Clerks & Treasurers Association.  Mark has also attended more than twenty different networking events to promote his services and other programs, including the Small Business Centre.  This included the Deseronto Business Breakfast, the Stirling Rotary Club meeting and speaking on Moose FM in Bancroft.  Detailed metrics are included in Section 2 of this report; and
  • Our partnership continued with the Small Business Centre. This year a new program, Starter Company Plus, was launched providing those interested in self-employment and existing businesses with business training, skills development, mentoring and access to up to $5,000 in seed capital to help.  The program is for those 18 years of age or older.   To-date there are two participants from Hastings County, one in Stirling-Rawdon and one in Tyendinaga Township, who have received their initial funding through the Program.  Detailed metrics are included in Section 2 of this report.

Marketing and Communications

  • On October 17, 2016 staff coordinated a display at the Business Unlimited Networking event held at the Hastings Highlands Community Centre where we met with people in Hastings Highlands and beyond;
  • Partnered with Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organizations, Ottawa Valley Tourist Association and Haliburton County to have booth space at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show from February 24-26, 2017.  Local business Cruising Canoes was in the booth to spread awareness of our local outdoor experiences and Limerick Township Councillor Michael Douglas-Hecker volunteered on the Friday of the Show.  The Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery owners Lillian Oakley-Pattison and Gary Pattison attended as well;
  • Launched the I Left The City campaign on March 22, 2017.  The promotion includes the website www.ileftthecity.ca featuring interviews with twelve entrepreneurs outlining why they located their businesses and lives in Hastings County;
  • Provided assistance to Quinte Immigration Services with arrangement of a Skills Connect Matching Event on April 12 to help Syrian refugees with agriculture and food processing backgrounds find employment;
  • On May 30, 2017 promoted our area and opportunities in Mississauga at the Peel Region’s Rural Employment Job Fair.  We met with more than 100 people who were looking for work in rural Ontario.  Among those we met with, two applied for jobs in our region;
  • Coordinated a 30 X 40 foot tent at the Plowing Match and Farm Show August 23 & 24, 2017.  This year we worked with Harvest Hastings to hand-out local food samples and we provided display space to any interested member Municipality in the County.  Limerick Township Councillor Michael Douglas-Hecker reports that some recent visitors to Limerick indicated that they visited after seeing our display at the Farm Show;
  • Promoted Hastings County at the Toronto International Snowmobile and ATV Show from October 20-22, 2017;
  • Continued to promote our area for craft brewing investment in partnership with Lennox & Addington County, Prince Edward County and Frontenac County at the Ontario Craft Brewers Association Conference on October 19, 2017.  There we launched our new videos showcasing craft brewers in the local area including the Bancroft Brewing Company who received assistance from our office with their opening and securing funding for their new canning machine.  The goal is to raise awareness of our area through profiling some emerging craft breweries.  We have handled close to 30 serious inquiries in response to our marketing and have assisted with the establishment of 10 craft breweries in our four-County region.  Our handbook on how to start a brewery has been downloaded more than 2,000 times and at least one download per day;
  • Applied to the Province’s Rural Economic Development (RED) Grant Program for funding to help cover a portion of the cost of developing a new Branding Strategy for Hastings County.  We expect to hear if it is approved early in 2018.  A formal Request for Proposal (RFP) will be issued soon to select an experienced company who can help coordinate development of the Brand.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • New Harvest Hastings website was launched at their Annual General Meeting on November 29, 2016.  Our Unit staff were directly involved with the production of the website.  The website profiles more than 250 agri-food and forestry businesses and had 19,000 different visitors to the website;
  • Staff have been directly involved with the production of a new Harvest Hastings magazine style directory.  It will include a directory of local producers, points of sale and information on farmers’ markets with maps and articles about Hastings County, the traditions of agriculture and forestry, buying local, agri-tourism and the rural Renaissance.  Currently Harvest Hastings is selling advertising in the magazine to help cover the costs;
  • Through support to the Bancroft and Area Forest Industry Association, 800 people were reached this year through their Nature Connects and Forestry Education program.  This includes local students ranging in age from 5 years old to high school age to inspire them to learn more about our Forest Industry and potentially one day find a career in the forestry sector;
  • In partnership with Ontario East Economic Development Commission all agriculture and food related businesses across Hastings County and Eastern Ontario have been mapped.  This data is not public, but we can work with our member municipalities should they wish to utilize the information and it is helpful for when a company is looking to make connections, find a supplier or identify certain strengths or clusters.


  • Collaborated with Bay of Quinte Tourism to host workshops on Trip Advisor.  They took place across our region between January 19 and February 2, 2017.  30 people were trained on how to get their tourism businesses and attractions listed on Trip Advisor;
  • In celebration of Small Business Week, we coordinated three free workshops outlining how to start a business and resources to support with two scheduled in Bancroft on October 18 and one in Marmora on October 19; and,
  • Our Small Business Centre coordinates several workshops throughout the year focusing on how to start a business and sessions on their various programs including Starter Company and Starter Company Plus.

Assisting Member Municipalities and local community groups

  • Assisted the Town of Deseronto organize and promote a Business Networking Breakfast on May 29, 2017 to commence a dialogue amongst local business owners on ways to revitalize the downtown area and share some ideas.  Business owners who attended have since been holding their own meetings to discuss ways to improve the business community;
  • Met with the Madoc Business Improvement Team on June 19, 2017 to discuss the Madoc & District Main Street Management Team final report and ideas for implementation of actions.  They have since become a Committee of Council with the Municipality of Centre Hastings and moving forward with plans for a Festival of Trees in November and getting quotes for new street furniture;
  • Staff assisted the North Hastings Trails Committee and the North Hastings Economic Development Committee and other stakeholders with plans to expand non-motorized trails.  Page 26 of our Cultural Plan outlines the need to develop a Region-Wide Trails Strategy.  Recently $42,900 in Trillium Grant Funding was announced to create a North Hastings Non-Motorized Trail Master Plan;
  • In partnership with the Town of Bancroft, pursued implementation of the Earth Sciences Centre Master Plan and discussions with the Algonquins of Ontario; and
  • Worked with the North Hastings Economic Development Committee to re-launch the North Hastings Scenic Routes.  We funded the cost of promotional videos to help promote the Routes on social media.


  • Commenced promotions of public activities taking place across the County in our email newsletter, on our blog and on our social media channels;
  • In June the “Local Wanderer Initiative” was launched.  This is a program that involves the development of stories that are unique to Hastings County and can be promoted through our online marketing tools (e.g. Twitter, Facebook).  Through a public advertising campaign, staff recruited locals who enjoy travelling and exploring their own backyard, and six writers were selected.  Their stories are being posted regularly on the County’s website blog and promoted on our social media channels.  This initiative caught the attention of Ontario’s Highland’s Tourism Organization (OHTO) and they have decided to emulate it;
  • Hired Marketing Coordinator Luisa Sorrentino on May 8, 2017;
  • The Arts Route continues to expand with 14 locations featured.  This year several promotional videos were produced to help promote the Arts Route to explorers and also to promote membership on the Route;
  • Met with the Bancroft & Area Stewardship Council on July 4, 2017 to discuss development of a public Outdoor Recreation Map.  The Stewardship Council is not reproducing their Crown Land Map and discussions continue to explore Hastings County taking the lead on development of a map to showcase where to fish, where crown land is, where the Conservation Areas are and Park etc.; and
  • October 23, 2017 the sixth Annual Tourism Awards and Celebration was held at the Village Playhouse in Bancroft.

Formation of the Municipal Economic and Tourism Development Partners Group

  • On February 22 a meeting was convened in Fort Stewart to discuss with participants of the former Economic and Tourism Development Partners Group an overview of the recommendations in the Economic and Development Mandate and Operations Review.  Formalization of the Group later took place with the approval of the Terms of Reference and all fourteen member municipalities have appointed an elected official or staff person to the Group.  The first formal meeting of the new Group took place on June 27, 2017 and the Group met most recently on September 28, 2017.  Notes and updates from the meetings are shared with the Planning and Development Committee.  Some examples of projects and items being discussed include the annual Farm Show and Plowing Match display, development of Paddling Routes and development of Cycling Tourism.

Economic and Tourism Development Advisory Committee

  • County Council approved a formal Terms of Reference for the new Advisory Committee.  Ten members of the public have been appointed including representatives from the tourism sector, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and the creative economy.  A meeting is being arranged for some time in November or early December.


2)    Report on the Success Measures Scorecard

The following section outlines year-to-date progress made in support of these four key areas:

  1. Business Coaching and Creating a Culture of Entrepreneurship
  2. Enticing People to Locate in Hastings County
  3. Educating Tourists by Telling our Story
  4. Revitalizing and Enhancing our Assets and Attractions

Objective: Support entrepreneurs start, prosper and grow in the County of Hastings




Start-up and small business assistance

Hired Small Business Coordinator & re-started formal business coaching program

Inquiries: 68

Consultations: 118

New Start-ups: 6

Jobs Created: 6

Total Investment: $43,500

Existing Businesses Assisted: 13

Pending New or Expanded Businesses: 44 (of these 44 pending projects, potential outcomes are: 15 new starts and 6 expansions of existing businesses resulting in 60 new jobs and $7 M in investment.  We have employed a feasibility factor to each of these pending projects to predict a more reasonable 25 jobs and $2.5 M in investment).

“Thanks so much for meeting with us yesterday. _____ and I thought it was really helpful.” – JP Business Owner

“Thanks so much for meeting with the Deputy Mayor & talking about our situation. I so do appreciate your help” – LG Business Owner

“Just following up to say thank you very much for the help involving my small business and helping me to understand the regulations surrounding it on a down to earth way. I really do appreciate it.” – JM Business Owner

Starter Company Program continued this year through our Small Business Centre

New Start-ups: 11

Grants: $55,000 invested in Hastings County businesses




Starter Company Plus is a new program this year 

2 information “pitch” sessions were held and out of 11 applicants 2 participants are from Hastings County.  Another entrepreneur in training for December pitch session.

2 entrepreneurs in Hastings County awarded with $6,000 in funding and an opportunity for each to pitch for an additional $2,000. 

Summer Company Program continued through our Small Business Centre

New business start-ups launched by students: 8

Grants: $24,000 in start-up dollars invested


Objective: Attract entrepreneurs and ‘Lone Eagles’ to Hastings County




Investment Marketing

Launched the ‘I Left The City’ show and marketing campaign in March, 2017

Views of ileftthecity.ca: 4,590

Plays of the Video Interviews: 1,368


Have connected with two individuals in the GTA interested in moving here and staff are staying in touch to get them relocated

Median household income grew 21% & individual income grew 27%

The FAB Region ‘Start a Brewery’ campaign continued in partnership with Prince Edward County, Lennox & Addington County and Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation.

Received 6 inquiries related to starting a craft brewery over the past 12 months

Our Startup handbook was downloaded 386 times over the past 12 months, 2,176 to-date since it was launched

Bancroft Brewing Company officially opened this year. Handling at least three other serious inquiries from individuals wanting to also open a brewery and at least two distillery inquiries

Attended the Peel Region Rural Job Fair in Mississauga.  Met with over 100 people looking to find work in rural Ontario

Among the people we met, 2 were interviewed for jobs in our area

Joined the Ontario East Economic Development Commission’s Food Sector Investment Team.  Received a serious inquiry to locate a food processing building in our County

Met with the investor on several occasions and they put in an offer on a building.  Unfortunately the deal fell through and investor later decided to wind down their operations.


Objective: Raise awareness of Hastings County as a place to visit




Marketing Hastings County to visitors

Marketing Coordinator Hired

Website traffic: Visit page 3,720 views over past 12 months. “Rockhounding” website page 4,210 views. “Parks & Trails” website page 1,209 views. “Things to See & Do” website page 921 views.  “Available Properties” page 856 views.

Hastings County Blog: Visitation increased 111.24% from 1,504 last year to 3,177 this year.

RED Grant application submitted to help develop a new branding strategy

NOTE: Staff are currently working to collect 2017 data on Tourist Information Centre Visits, Key Event Attendance and Hotel, Accommodations Occupancy Rates and other related metrics.

Local Wanderer Campaign launched. Since launching and promoting these stories, a 200% increase in views on Twitter.  On Facebook and Twitter combined, we experienced a 22% increase in engagement with followers surpassing goal of 7% increase.  On Instagram we enjoyed a 46% increase in engagement with followers.

Promoted Hastings County at events including Toronto ATV Show, Plowing Match and Farm Show and Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show


Objective: Help Improve and Profile Hastings County’s offerings




Industry Development

Hosted TripAdvisor Workshops: 30 participants

Small Business Centre Workshops: April, 2016-March, 2017 84 workshops (58 participants from Hastings County), & April, 2017-Present 21 workshops (32 participants from Hastings County).

Hosted the 6th Annual Tourism Awards Celebration in Bancroft: A combined total of 132 nominations received.

New Tourism Industry e-Newsletter developed

Staff have visitation statistics for 2012-2015 and will compare with future data when made available. In 2015, 2.4 million people visited Hastings County

Product Development

Earth Sciences Centre Final Report produced

Provided Market Ready Support to new Scenic Routes. ScenicRoutes.ca witnessed a 375% increase in page views this year and 452% increase in New Users.

Researched and created Paddling Routes Development Handbook for member municipalities and local stakeholders

Initiated discussions with Municipal Partners Group on development of Cycling Routes and expanding North Hastings Scenic Routes

Staff have visitation statistics for 2012-2015 and will compare with future data when made available. In 2015, 2.4 million people visited Hastings County

Culture and Heritage

Arts Route members: 14

Traffic to ArtsRoute.ca: 780 page views

New Arts Route marketing videos produced

New CulturalPortal.ca launched with 4,000 visitors  

Arts Route members profiled and promoted: 14

20 different groups contributing to the Cultural Portal

Agriculture and Natural Resources / Forestry

New HarvestHastings.ca launched.  Website visited by 19,000 unique separate people, 20% from Toronto.  There are 254 profiles on the website.  New Magazine Style Directory being produced

254 agriculture and forestry businesses promoted by Harvest Hastings