- by Dieter Heinrich

The closing of Tenneco is a body blow to the local economy. It seems to be due to larger economic forces. The decline in manufacturing is a North American story happening to small towns everywhere. We’ve known this for years, and this is another step in the same direction.

The don’t-tax-me, free market conservatives out there are getting what they voted for. This is what free enterprise looks like, it's free to leave. Free not to come in the first place. Capitalist businesses look out for themselves, and follow the money. And yet, to listen to many of the candidates in the last election, this is what we need more of and should pin our hopes on?

Instead, we could be trying to make ourselves less dependent on outside companies with head offices who-knows-where. We can foster our own local businesses, and the best way to do that is by organizing a co-operative movement here. Employee-owned businesses do not just leave town. Instead of looking to foreign corporations to save us, we need to do even more to grow local entrepreneurism. And for the future, for their future, we need to be teaching our kids how to start and operate businesses now. Are we doing that?

City Council could lead in catalyzing the forming of centres of enterprise. We could have a hospitality hub, for instance, that invites everyone in the local industry to come together around the goal of working to raise standards and to make us a more competitive visitor destination with better restaurants, hotels and attractions.

We have a rail trail in the area that goes to Orangeville, and maybe Brampton, and a wider rail trail network that could go from past Port Elgin to Collingwood. Why haven’t we made it into a hiking and cycling destination the way Le Petite Train du Nord is in Quebec? http://gobiking.ca/quebec-rides/ptit-train-du-nord/

As another idea, what about a Harbour Marine Co-operative that would proactively seek ships to come here to over-winter and have their repairs and maintenance done? Being empty, they wouldn’t even need the harbour dredged. Then again, what if the sand at the bottom of the harbour could be vacuumed up and made into cement or road beds? Maybe it isn’t too toxic for ceramics. Could we make dredging profitable?

There is empty land next to the marina that could be used for winter storage of boats if the City worked with the marina to put in a boat lift. That would add a half a million dollars to the local economy with hundreds of sailors coming here fall and spring.

And where are all the stems from all those marijuana plants going to be going? That is hemp, and it can be used in everything from brick-making to paper to insulation to car parts. Ontario will soon have a lot of that stuff, including some we are growing right here in town. Could we open a Hemp Institute here to foster local expertise in working with it?

What if we put small, discrete micro-hydro generators in at the Mill Dam, and Inglis Falls? There must be a million dollars a year of clean renewable energy going neglected.

I notice that the Metro supermarket is selling bundled firewood — from Quebec! Can we not at least cut our own wood around here?

There are endless opportunities in Owen Sound, and no outsider can know better what they are than we can. What we are missing is the entrepreneurial management it takes to act. So let us become entrepreneurs. That is something we can do for ourselves right now.

All it takes is five people and an idea to start a co-operative.


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