Wednesday, May 25, 2005 - 17:00
Local News - Build it and they will come.
It worked for Ray Kinsella in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams.
He turned an Iowa corn field into a baseball diamond in pursuit of a dream. The Chicago Black Sox came. So did thousands of fans.
Penetanguishene’s Economic Development Committee has a dream, too. And its members are just as dedicated to making it happen.
Their dream involves attracting more businesses and helping to grow those already in the area, giving their town a unique identity, revitalizing its harbour and downtown, attracting more tourists and hiring a community development co-ordinator to assist in the promotion and development of the town.
Some parts of their dream are already reality.
A massive project at CCL Container has added more than 60 new jobs and some small businesses are undergoing expansion. Two new areas have been designated as business parks. The town docks have undergone a $400,000 improvement that increased to 90 from 70 the number of boat slips.
And the town is hiring a community development co-ordinator.
The town has a new logo and is encouraging public involvement in creating a new slogan.
One idea already proposed is: Penetanguishene – Historical Gateway to the 30,000 Islands.
And in a bid to attract more tourists this summer there will be a festival marking the anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s visit to the area in the 1600s.
The dream took another step towards reality last week as people gathered to hear a communications consultant report what he learned after asking business owners about the opportunities and challenges, strengths and weaknesses of operating a business downtown business.
What Richard Messer of ConnectUs Communications Canada told them something needs to be done to “brand” the main street hill and downtown shopping area. One suggestion discussed was a trolley service to carry people up and down the hill (like the trolleys in San Francisco).
Messer suggested a common theme for the downtown businesses, perhaps incorporating the town’s history.
He said the store fronts need refreshed and that stores converted for residential purposes should be restored to commercial use. Some buildings, he added, were eyesores and the owners should be approached to fix them.
“You have to get after property owners to fix up storefronts and attract businesses to rent empty stores,” he said. Improving the downtown, he suggested, requires a community driven effort. He urged merchants to work in partnership with the town, the chamber of commerce and others to bring about a revitalization of the downtown.
Messer said some of the people he talked with suggested the downtown needs a gourmet coffee house, trendy men’s and women’s clothing stores, an electronics store that provides service and repairs and a tourist information centre.
He said the town should focus on the rich history of its three founding cultures to attract tourists.
Coun. David Gravelle, a member of the Economic Development Committee, said the information provided by Messer will help to serve as a catalyst in the ongoing efforts to involve business owners and others in revitalizing the downtown area.
“The community development co-ordinator’s role will involve working closely with businesses to improve the downtown, in attracting tourists and help make the EDC’s dream a reality,” he said.
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Printed from www.midlandfreepress.com web site Thursday, May 26, 2005 - © 2005 Midland Free Press