Goderich Says: ‘Thank You, Canada’

By CBJ Staff

The picturesque town of Goderich is situated in the beautiful Huron County region at the mouth of the Maitland River on the east shore of the Lake Huron in Ontario.

The official motto: Canada’s Prettiest Town.

It’s a town that certainly lives up to that name, with its incredible scenery; water, trees and famous sunsets to go along with a number of historic old buildings that give the small community much of its identity and character. But that identity was horribly scarred by a vicious F3 tornado that tore through the town of about 8,000 inhabitants on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011 resulting in the death of one person and injuries to many others. The tornado aggressively tore through the downtown core leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

Town officials immediately declared a state of emergency as rescue teams frantically searched for missing people. Local stores also donated many of their products to assist in the recovery effort.

Now, more than a year later, the most recent damage report reveals a cost of more than $130 million to the community and its economy. Since that terrible day, Goderich has embarked upon one of the most innovative economic revitalization initiatives in North America. The Canadian Business Journal had an opportunity to visit with Judy Crawford, CEO of the Huron Chamber of Commerce to discuss development in Goderich this past year.

CBJ: How has Goderich recovered from last year’s tornado?

JC: Goderich is a resilient community. Almost 90 per cent of all stores and services impacted by the tornado have rebuilt and reopened. Construction totals more $23 million in the first nine months of this year; that’s $20 million more than the previous year.

There’s plenty of work ahead and investment opportunities available. More than 160 businesses are operational downtown and are delighting customers every day. Beautiful new store fronts have been unveiled. We still have about 8 per cent of our downtown as vacant land available for redevelopment and we are open for business.

CBJ: What does the Rediscover Goderich campaign hope to achieve?

JC: Our community has received close to $4 million dollars for relief efforts from all parts of Ontario and Canada. Our community is in a position of gratitude. We want to start a conversation with the world by saying, ’Thank you’ and encourage the world to Rediscover Goderich.

We look at saying ‘Thank You’ as a conversation starter, from which we can extend an invite to our customers to plan their next vacation, hold their next family reunion or suggest to their employer to hold the next management retreat. This would really help our recovery efforts. Likewise, our Rediscover Goderich campaign is designed to remind government ministries to allocate redevelopment budgets here in 2013 and to encourage businesses from across the province to consider Goderich as a great market to open a second location.

CBJ: How has the community changed?

JC: Absolutely, we’ve been brought closer together. There are many examples. The Huron Chamber of Commerce has brought citizens, business and community leaders together on committees to revitalize the economy, citizens have developed networks to plant trees, neighbours have banded together to throw benefit concerts and church congregations are coming together to help heal and care for one another. The spirit of optimism, resiliency and teamwork are fundamental components of the community’s character in Goderich, and it is being demonstrated each and every day.

Through its Community Economic Revitalization Committee (CERC), the Chamber of Commerce is reaching out to businesses in markets throughout southwestern and the world to encourage investment in revitalization efforts.

You can learn more about Goderich’s progress by visiting wwww.facebook.com/rediscovergoderich or following them on Twitter @SayYes2Goderich. Videos of progress can also be seen by viewing the following videos: