Rural Economic Development Strategy

Rural Economic Development Strategy; A Positive Step


The City of Ottawa has released a draft Rural Economic Development Strategy which recognizes the economic benefits and potential of supporting economic development in rural communities. This is a positive development in recognizing the value of the City’s rural villages in achieving broader economic goals while also recognizing the unique challenges and opportunities faced by rural communities.

The Strategy connects well with the action plans developed by Manotick’s Task Force on Revitalization, made up of key organizations and volunteers in the village. The Task Force plans are focused on ways to sustain local businesses, revitalize Main Street and maintain an enjoyable quality of life for residents of the Village.

 

The City’s Rural Strategy provides an excellent snapshot of Ottawa’s rural area, noting the median income is higher than in the urban core, the continuing gaps in broadband and infrastructure that hinder economic development, the high percentage of rural residents who commute elsewhere to work (76%), and the limited housing options. It also noted that while only 10% of the City’s residents live in rural areas, 80% of the land area within the City boundaries is rural.

 

The Strategy is focused on five priorities:

  1. A supportive business environment that enhances the creation and growth of small to medium sized businesses and supports entrepreneurship.

  2. A vibrant rural lifestyle that positions rural Ottawa as a part of the City with diverse economic opportunities and high quality of life and improves its ability to respond to economic and social challenges proactively.

  3. A strengthened rural tourism profile to create and enhance a distinct rural experience.

  4. Innovation in Agriculture and Agri-food Production to help existing agriculture operations remain viable and competitive.

  5. Advocating for rural priorities with potential partners and other levels of government to ensure rural Ottawa businesses have broadband access at competitive rates and to expand the definition of rural communities for funding eligibility from other levels of government. 

 

The Strategy includes detailed action plans for each priority. For example, actions to create a supportive business environment include:

  • development of a rural business information kit,

  • explore the potential for pop-up retail/restaurants in rural villages,

  • explore a rural business retention and expansion program,

  • identify investment opportunities for rural businesses and develop a marketing kit to attract businesses to rural areas,

  • explore the use of a rural Community Improvement Plan to make use of grants and tax incentives to jumpstart development.

 

The priority of supporting a vibrant rural lifestyle includes action plans to:

  • provide for more diverse housing options,

  • review broadband connectivity and identify gaps,

  • examine the feasibility of on-demand transportation or ride-sharing for tourism and business purposes,

  • improve rural and village design, which addresses the physical fabric of rural communities and preserves rural character.

 

Strengthening a rural tourism presence includes Action plans to:

  • help villages to define their tourism profile,

  • look at ways to highlight rural tourism experiences,

  • expand the cycling network,

  • explore a Main Street revitalization program in rural villages to make the destinations inviting and unique from alternatives (e.g. Manotick brand, Carp Village brand, etc.), and

  • improve directional signage.


This is a brief overview of the Strategy which includes timelines and potential partners. The action plans are ambitious and some will take time and additional resources to be implemented. The City’s plan is to take some immediate actions that are achievable within the existing budget and staff resources. 

 

The Strategy was approved by the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on March 5 and is expected to be approved by Council on March 25th. The challenge for the City, once the Rural Economic Development Strategy is approved, is to move forward with full and speedy implementation. Villages are at a crucial point in their economic development and require the support that this Strategy will provide.

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