United Counties of Prescott and Russell Economic Development Director Carole Lavigne. (File photo).

Economic development projects are great, now let’s get results

Are you a local business owner who has had trouble finding qualified staff? Well, you’re not alone, according to the United Counties of Prescott and Russell’s OPRO program.

OPRO, which stands for Opportunités Prescott-Russell Opportunities, was a series of interviews with more than 500 local business owners across the agri-food, tourism, industrial and commercial sectors.

The interviews were to outline the region’s strengths and weaknesses when it came to operating a business. Early results showed a lack of trained labour, the need for better connectivity and a possible gap in succession planning.

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Carole Lavigne, director of Economic Development, says her department will be presenting the results to each municipality in the coming weeks. She hopes the presentations and feedback period will be over by the end of June. That’s three months later than initially expected.

While she admits it’s been a longer process than expected, she says overall it was good so as to not get untrustworthy information.

Developing an overall picture

The EcoDev team, in partnership with Planning and Forestry, recently launched the UCPR’s interactive map investment tool, which hopes to connect potential developers with commercial and industrial lot owners in the region.

Together, OPRO and the map cost $95,000 with $45,000 coming from grants.

“(The map) is for promotion and OPRO is to fix problems,” says Lavigne.

Asked how the department measures the success of both programs, Lavigne referred to the UCPR’s strategic plan.

“That’s how I validate it,” she says, “I follow the recommendations.”

For example, she says the map was one of the recommendations in the plan. While its implementation may tick off a box within the strategic plan, it doesn’t necessarily translate into long-term success.

The department doesn’t have specific goals to measure the program’s success as it was still in development.

“For now, I’m focusing on the marketing of this tool,” says Lavigne.

As for the problems OPRO identified? Well, the EORN recently got funding to develop better cell service and better internet connectivity. As for the lack of employees, Lavigne says her department is working with the Réseau de Soutien à l’Immigration Francophone de l’Est de l’Ontario to offer something like a regional open house to attract immigrants looking for jobs. 

The money’s been spent, the projects launched, now the hardest part remains: getting results.

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