MANITOULIN—LAMBAC (LaCloche Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation) hosted a series of stakeholder sessions across Manitoulin and LaCloche, collecting feedback to help shape a 2016-2021 LaCloche Manitoulin Strategic Plan.

“The sessions went really well,” LAMBAC GM Mike Addison told The Expositor. “We held eight sessions, four in Espanola to capture the LaCloche region, and four between M’Chigeeng and Mindemoya for Manitoulin. We were looking for the perspective of different organizations and groups. We met with municipalities, businesses, organizations and individuals in the tourist sector. We really tried to focus on the positive—what is going well and how we can build on that.”

“The attendance was really good at all of the sessions,” continued Mr. Addison, “and we had excellent engagement—I was impressed.”

The Manitoulin stakeholder sessions focused on ‘Partnerships: Education, Training and Housing,’ ‘Business Entrepreneurship Financial Resources,’ ‘Municipalities and Growth’ and ‘Tourism Culture Image and Promotion.’

The Expositor attended the last session on tourism, both as a stakeholder and to report on the meeting.

Tourism stakeholders at the meeting included representatives from Harbor Vue Marina in Little Current, 4Elements in Kagawong, 100.7 The Island radio station in Little Current, The Great Spirit Circle Trail, the Manitoulin Tourism Association, FedNor,  Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates, Maja’s in Mindemoya, The Burns Wharf Theatre Players, the municipality of Assiginack, Red Lodge and The Manitoulin Expositor/Manitoulin Publishing Co. Ltd.

Sylvie Thibault, LAMBAC community economic development consultant, spoke to the group noting that the key to success with the development of the strategic plan is all the stakeholders working together.

“Our goal today is to get a deeper understanding of everyone’s perspectives through small group discussions,” she explained, noting after each discussion topic, the small groups would share their ideas with the room.

For the first question, ‘What is going well in your community/business/organization?’ the responses varied but presented an overall theme that things were going well.

Some of the responses were: beautiful waterfronts; maintained historical buildings; welcoming five refugee families; generous communities; the expansion of cycling tourism; good cross pollination of business, municipalities and organizations; the expansion of longstanding businesses; the revitalization of the Manitoulin Tourism Association; and the development of the Manitoulin Arts and Cultural Council.

The next question posed asked the stakeholders to discuss opportunities for things that could be done better or differently.

The suggestions included: establishing a common vision of Manitoulin; making collaboration easier; youth retainment, encouraging youth to join local governance and boards; utilizing local media—advertising beyond Facebook; the development of a 10-20 year plan; the development of a young professionals association; youth business intern program; and supporting local and customer service training for youth.

As for ‘what would support economic development in your community, business or organization?’ the answers were: encouraging the shoulder season; business to business events; cross collaboration; apprentices beyond traditional trades; creating an employment consortium; investment in an attraction strategy; getting past the mindset that innovation can’t happen locally and creating affordable commercial spaces.

Lastly, the question ‘what measurable results will tell your community, business, organization that things are doing better—what will future success look like?’ sparked responses such as: the depth of partnership; sold out events; the completion of strategic plan goals; website visits; early bookings for events or accommodations; population increases and increased youth; profits; employee retention; and good feedback.

“Our next steps are to complete the information and bring out the overall themes,” explained Mr. Addison following the meeting. “We will then use the information in the development of the draft plan which we will present to the (LAMBAC) board mid-January. We hope to have the final draft done by February and will make it available on our website and to any interested stakeholders.”

For more information about LAMBAC or the 2016-2021 Strategic Plan visit lambac.org.