Business momentum grows in Collingwood

By JT McVeigh, The Enterprise-Bulletin

There was a great amount of excitement among the local business community when the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) released its report in October indicating Collingwood was the top entrepreneurial community in Canada.

It meant years after fighting back from the gloomy days in the 1980s, when the town lost a major employer, the Shipyards, the town was on a strong path to redefine itself.

This doesn’t mean the journey is over, and Ted Mallett, vice-president and chief economist with the CFIB, will be in Collingwood next week to discuss the report.

“It’s a great tool for communities and business owners to gauge what’s working and what’s not when it comes to laying the groundwork for entrepreneurial growth,” Mallett said when the report was released. “It’s like a snapshot in time that reflects business confidence and government policies that shape the business landscape.”

This isn’t the time for the town to sit back; now is the time for the second act, said Martin Rydlo, director of marketing and business development for Collingwood.

“This recognition is fantastic and it's great recognition of what the businesses around here are doing,” said Rydlo. “But we have to take that and figure out what we are going to have to do over the next three to five years to continue this momentum.”

The report paints a positive picture of where business in Collingwood and area is strong, but it also indicates there are opportunities to do more, and the task now is to identify those opportunities and develop a plan, Rydlo said.

“We have to work with some of the private and public partners that we have here, because we have some fantastic momentum on our side and we have to continue building,” he said.

Building is one thing; trying to find the people to do that is another.

A group from Rotaract, a Rotary club affiliate for 18- to 30-year-olds, brought results of a survey they had released to former young residents of Collingwood to find what would convince them to bring their skills back home.

“... That is where our biggest obstacle stands, to try and attract those under-30s to move here and bring that vibrancy and energy to this community,” said Rydlo. “Otherwise, we risk becoming a retirement community. We’ve seen a number of communities struggle after they identify themselves as a retirement community. We are not. We are an entrepreneurial community.”

The report suggested lifestyle was the main attraction, and Rydlo knows there aren’t unlimited resources, but there are resources close at hand, including Georgian College.

Sometimes the ratings from the CFIB can be a little misleading, governed more by the economic goodwill present in any given area. Western Canadian towns scored soundly while the oil patch was productive, but the recent slowdown has left a chill in the markets there.

Rydlo feels with the right approach, a scenario like that can be countered.

“We could find ourselves in a very different position in the future. We have to see what it is that is driving success here, what is attracting entrepreneurs here that is helping small companies grow,” said Rydlo. “We have a number of success stories, but what worked for them doesn't necessarily work for someone else. So, what else can we be doing?”

Getting a sense of where that might lead could be the source of Mallett’s talk on Jan. 16 .

Visit for more information and tickets. Seating is limited for this event. Buying tickets in advance is recommended. The event will take place at the Temple Building, 126 Hurontario St. The cost is $20.



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