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- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

With the ambition of reversing Owen Sound's shrinkage problem and growing the city to a population of 30,000 by the year 2030, the Mayor's Growth Plan committee went to the community for advice. The workshop held Wednesday was by invitation, with the intent of covering a broad range of sectors including education, healthcare, culture, retail, finance and information technology, development and real estate.
First, by the numbers. (We only know who was in attendance, not who was invited nor how invitees made the decision to accept or decline.)

Of the sixty people in the room, about one third were City or Grey County councillors and staff, and city committee members.
Slightly more than one third of the attendees were women.
There were a dozen or so people under forty, and a few under thirty.
There may have been a few hearing aids in the room, but only one person with a visible disability.
Most noticeable was that there was not a single indigenous person or person of colour in the room.

Tables of about ten participants considered Owen Sound's strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats for each of the following questions:
Do we grow Owen Sound?
Do we attract pre-retirees, retirees and seniors?
Do we attract and retain entrepreneurs/millenipreneurs?
Do we promote Owen Sound as a regional centre for education and training?
Do we engage individuals who have a past connection to Owen Sound?

After a few hours of conversation, the groups were asked for the single most important thing they wanted the Working Group to consider in creating an action plan for growth in Owen Sound.
These were their answers -

  • Change the perception of Owen Sound – to help people inside and outside the city understand what we are really all about.
  • Market the city, while ensuring that the infrastructure – downtown core, quality housing within the city, internet access, etcetera – is here.
  • Facilitate partnerships with neighbours, not necessarily government, and Georgian College.
  • Foster personal connections – expanding the current millenepreneurial campaign into others targeting different audiences.
  • Focus on making a solid connection with our youth - high school and college age - before they leave so Owen Sound remains a viable place for them to return.

Mayor Ian Boddy says the working group will have an action plan for growth as soon as possible, aiming for the end of the year.


 

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