In the heart of southwestern Ontario, Elgin County is a major player in the Ontario agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Elgin County also has strong representation in the energy and tourism sectors. South of the major centre of London, Ont., Elgin County is strategically located for business attraction, encompassing a business climate that fosters entrepreneurial spirit and investment.
Economics aside, Elgin County offers an environment of natural wonder and beauty, making it a great place for work and play. Home to a population just shy of 50,000, the combination of urban and rural amenities offered in Elgin County make it a welcoming environment for both business and lifestyle.
“We are an area that is strong in agri-business, and we also see an emergence of our creative economy; it is steadily growing,” Alan Smith, General Manager, Elgin County Economic Development, told The Canadian Business Journal.
Beneficial Business Environment
In attracting both business and residents to its community, Elgin County promotes a lifestyle and quality of life that combines urban and rural attractions, a blend not found in many Ontario municipalities.
“We are attractive for tourism and for the lifestyle,” said Kate Burns, Business Development Coordinator, Elgin County Economic Development. “Once they know our area, they are interested in coming back.”
Elgin County has implemented several key measures to attract new business and retain established businesses within the community. A proactive business supporter within its community, Elgin County offers critical business services like the Elgin Business Resource Centre, based in the city centre of St. Thomas.
The Elgin Business Resource Centre offers loan programs and business assistance to new and existing small businesses. Additionally, Elgin County also offers an Ambassador program that gives small business owners and community leaders the opportunity to share their business knowledge, promote Elgin County, and network with one another.
“We find that the people within our community are our best ambassadors for attracting people from outside the region,” Burns summarized.
In an effort to attract investment and business expansion, Elgin County assists local businesses in developing a healthy environment that fosters business prosperity and job creation.
“The majority of new jobs are created through local, established businesses,” Smith explained, “so we have programs in place to assist those businesses. Ultimately those are the businesses that will expand and create jobs.”
Through its People and Places Program, Elgin County has established a marketing campaign that focuses on attracting residents to its community.
In Port Stanley, Elgin County works alongside the Municipality of Central Elgin on the Harbour Development Initiative. The project’s Harbour Development Committee was formed last year to look at how best to develop the Port Stanley Harbour. Another project, in nearby Port Burwell, will soon be home to a retired Canadian naval submarine, currently housed in Hamilton, Ont.
“We spend a lot of time promoting our quality of place within the County,” said Katherine Thompson, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Elgin County Economic Development. “Aside from our competitive tax rates, Elgin County offers low cost of housing, access to the natural environment, good schools, quiet neighbourhoods, and friendly people.”
Elgin County is a neighbourly, small community that offers a range of urban amenities as well as the comfortable benefits that come with a rural lifestyle.
“We have a community where rush hour is waiting for one car. You can let your kids play until the street lights come on because in Elgin County we are in a safe community,” Burns described. “At the same time, we are close to the major centre of London and two hours from Toronto.”
It is this level of quality of life that has proven attractive and appealing to visitors and newcomers in Elgin County. Meanwhile, the benefits offered in its strong and thriving business community have also proven welcoming in bringing new business that reflects the needs of the community, which bodes well for its commitment to continued growth, fostering the business community and programs into the future.
“We are finding out what businesses need and making sure that our programming services reflect the needs of our communities,” Burns concluded. “We are ensuring expansion in business and we are growing within our community.
“Elgin County is a wonderful community with an entrepreneurial spirit where businesses thrive. Elgin County is where business meets lifestyle, combining successful business with a high quality of life.”