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Looking to boost local economy

Have an opinion or two about what path Woolwich should follow on the road to strengthening the local economy? The township will be looking for your two cents’ worth later this year as it formulates an economic development strategic plan.

The goal is to create a roadmap to guide the township in the longer term as it looks to build a diverse economy, said chief administrative officer David Brenneman.

“You need a plan. Otherwise you’re flying by the seat of your pants, and that’s never good.”

Under the terms of a request for proposal issued earlier this month – quotes from consultants are expected by the end of July – the undertaking will review Woolwich’s current strengths and assets, then identify future opportunities, he explained.

That could include working on attracting technology companies or boosting tourism or broadening the industrial base. Or all of that and more.

“We’ll be looking at where the strengths are in the township, where are the opportunities?”
Whatever the outcome, Brenneman is sure the outlook is bright.

“Woolwich has an important role to play in the economic development of Waterloo Region. We’re strategically located between the region’s [cities] and the City of Guelph.”

In fact, regional forecasts have already identified Woolwich – specifically the area around Breslau – as the center of future industrial growth. In the last few years, there has been a focus on developing employment lands in that part of the township.

Growth plans see development of new industrial land starting in the north part of Cambridge, in an area surrounding the intersection of Fountain Street and Middle Block Road. Stage two would be slightly to the north, on hundreds of acres engulfing the Region of Waterloo International Airport. The third stage would involve land surrounding Breslau itself, while stage four would see the development of property northeast of the village, along Hwy. 7 and Shantz Station Road.

Woolwich’s location and the availability of land means there will be plenty of opportunities, said Brenneman, adding the key is to develop a plan rather than letting things happen haphazardly.

That’s especially true if the township hopes to lure technology firms – its proximity to Waterloo is helpful in that regard. With growing investments in environmental projects such as wind and solar farms and the kind of biogas plant being considered for Elmira, there are more opportunities here, he said.

“We have to look at attracting emerging sectors.”

That said, the exercise is not a prelude to massive growth and sprawl; any development would be in keeping with Woolwich’s existing go-slow growth model, he stressed.

Funding for the study will come from a $75,000 grant from the federal government.

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