Economic Alliance Proposed for Area

Economic Alliance Proposed for Area
A grassroots organization is being developed in our area, hoping to create a regional identity, which could develop projects and apply for funding as the Huron North Community Economic Alliance (HNCEA).

The first meeting in November 2016 was facilitated by Suzanne Faubert-Astles from the Blind River office of Northern Development and Mines. An invitation was extended to municipalities, First Nations, organizations and other community stakeholders.

The geographic region along the North Shore of Lake Huron includes 17 municipalities and 6 First Nations from Massey and Sagamok First Nation to the Garden River First Nation, covering 200 km from east to west, with an estimated population of around 32,000 residents.

The idea for the first meeting came from the reality that most of the groups invited, were working on similar projects and facing similar challenges. If communities join together to tackle projects and promote themselves as a region, they could access more funding, make more happen, and share in the benefits and success of larger projects.  

Representatives from northeastern Ontario attended the first meeting in Little Rapids, to share their story.  The Northeast Community Network (NeCN) is an incorporated, regional, not-for-profit organization that promotes collaborative economic development, applied research and support for forestry, mining, agriculture and business development.

The NeCN group was created out of a need to work together on a forestry initiative. In order to access funding, 3 communities within a geographic area partnered on the project. Not all communities bought into the concept at first, but after a decade and several successful projects, there are now 13 community partners in NeCN. They include larger municipalities like Timmins, Cochrane, and Kapuskasing, the Constance Lake First Nation, along with several smaller communities within the region.

The NeCN group collaborated on organizing an Agricultural Symposium, which explored climate change, agricultural success stories and new possibilities in the claybelt and most recently a tourism initiative, marketing the northeast region as “the world’s best snowmobile destination”.  This included market surveys, collaboration with all community partners, production of a snowmobiling video, and massive marketing campaign.  

The Huron North Community Economic Alliance hopes to follow the northeast model for organization and governance, but will select projects and concepts specific to the needs of this area.  It is hoped that by utilizing the administration support offered by the MNDM office and working from the NeCN model, time, effort and cost normally put into getting established, could be kept to a bare minimum.

Out of the November and December meetings, 4 main concepts or pillars for this area were identified. They are: Agriculture, Tourism, Residential/Lifestyle, and Business Development.

Response from local groups, municipalities, First Nations and organizations was positive enough to hold a third meeting on Thursday March 8th.   A “Next Step” group of volunteers interested in bringing this opportunity forward, presented ideas about how the regional identity could be developed, starting with the suggested name, Huron North Community Economic Alliance (HNCEA). They also suggested HNCEA becoming incorporated as a Not-for-Profit organization, run by an 11 member Board of Directors.

The group explored how the Huron North Economic Alliance could be supported, and what “buying in” to this concept could look like to local communities. It was determined that between $20-30,000 would be needed to move the concept forward, with the potential to leverage $200-300,000 in government funding for regional projects.  

It was suggested that a package be put together in some form, and used to promote the initiative to council members and other stakeholders who’ve been unable to attend the meetings.  

The Next Step volunteers will meet on Wednesday March 15th to pull together this information and potential project ideas for both short term, which could happen in 2017, and long term that could roll out over the next 5 years.