Assiginack, Tehkummah, Killarney to share economic development officer

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MANITOULIN – Three municipalities in the eastern portion of the District of Manitoulin will be gaining the benefit of an economic development officer (EDO) to enhance their municipal offerings as part of a funding partnership with FedNor to have a shared EDO between the townships of Assiginack, Tehkummah and Killarney.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Assiginack CAO Alton Hobbs. “I appreciate working with (Killarney and Tehkummah) so I think there’ll be some interesting things that develop.”

FedNor has approved three years of funding for the Township of Assiginack to be the funding partner for an EDO. While Killarney and Tehkummah will be able to get use from that position, they are considered non-funding partners. 

This means that the EDO’s paycheques will come from Assiginack and any work done for the other two communities will be accounted and factored into their shared cost. 

Details of the cost-sharing agreement were still in negotiation when The Expositor contacted the participating townships. FedNor is covering 90 percent of the EDO’s costs up to $270,000 over the three-year term.

These eastern communities are the last on Manitoulin Island to gain the benefit of an EDO. In August 2019, LAMBAC hired an EDO for the Western Manitoulin Community Network which includes all municipalities and First Nations from Billings westward. Assiginack and Tehkummah were then the lone holdouts.

At this point, exactly what sorts of projects will be undertaken by the EDO remain undetermined due to the global disruptions.

“I think all of the municipalities had areas they wanted to explore and projects they wanted to look at. Those are still on the table but in all honestly, post-pandemic, our business communities are going to need a lot of assistance. It’s actually rather fortuitous timing that we’ll be bringing on an EDO to help with that,” said Mr. Hobbs.

In Assiginack, council has previously expressed interest in developing its offerings with the Norisle and Burns Wharf, both of which could be further considered with an EDO. Business attraction and retention, as well as Main Street development, were other priorities highlighted by Mr. Hobbs.

In Tehkummah, with its small and widely distributed population, the benefits of access to an EDO are eagerly anticipated.

“We couldn’t afford to have one on our own so it’ll be great to have the expertise of an EDO looking into how we can improve our township so we’re attracting more businesses and residents,” said Tehkummah clerk-administrator Silvio Berti. “We’re very happy, especially in these troubled times, that somebody is going to be able to help us with this.”

He added that the three communities share a connection of being located along the shores of Lake Huron, so there may be opportunities for unique collaborations in the future.

Municipality of Killarney clerk-treasurer Candy Beauvais had just heard the news when contacted by The Expositor. She said she was excited to hear that the approval had come through and that her town was waiting to hear more details about the sharing agreement.

In a May 31 news release, federal funder FedNor officially announced this funding as part of $7.6 million for it and 35 other tourism-related community initiatives across Northern Ontario—including the August 2019 LAMBAC EDO hiring for Western Manitoulin, as mentioned above.

The announcement came on the last day of Tourism Week in Canada, which ran from May 24 to 31 this year.

As of press time, no timeline had been established for the hiring of the EDO.