Consultants set agenda for Inspiring Innisfil
By Chris Simon Innisfil Scope September 9 2010
A team is in place, and work is underway on a longterm vision for the town.
Representatives from McSweeney and Associates, the consulting firm responsible for creating the Inspiring Innisfil 2020 strategic plan, provided an overview of the project for town council, during a meeting last week.
“McSweeney and Associates has served clients throughout Ontario, successfully delivering innovative community and economic development consulting for nearly 10 years,” said strategic planning director Susan Downs. “They provide advice, tools, guidance and capacity building for communities to achieve sustainable growth, attract new (commerce), diversify and retain and grow existing businesses.”
Inspiring Innisfil would be a compilation of three Alcona subdivision separate but intertwined plans — community strategic, economic development and tourism and culture. Staff would use the plans to develop a vision and long-term goals for the municipality, and set targets for the 2010- 2014 council term.
Consultants have already met with councillors and the town’s senior management team, to develop a scope for the project.
“(The plan) needs to provide a clear direction and a realistic action plan, to match the capability and resources of the community,” said consultant Eric McSweeney. “If we can get the community and council pulling together for the same things, we’ll be much more successful. We hope to engage the community and council. The strategy is discovering what the community values, and move that into the vision. I’m not sure that’s clearly articulated yet.”
But finding a collective vision for a unique municipality like Innisfil, which has several small and distinct urban centres, could be difficult, said councillor Lynn Dollin.
“We are a community of communities, one size doesn’t fit all,” she said. “What works in Stroud may not work in Gilford. It can be challenging. We seem to get fixated on creating an (employment zone) near Highway 400, instead of focusing on the business that is already here. If you can’t look after what you’ve already got, why should you get more? It would be nice to see some focus on the retention side.”
As part of the strategy, residents, community organization representatives and advisory groups will be asked for input. A public consultation process for the plan will begin Sept. 19. All residents will be invited to complete online and mail-in surveys, and attend open houses scheduled at the New Town Hall, Cookstown Library and Community Centre and South Innisfil Community Centre later this month.
“Citizens at large, community organizations, advisory groups and various stakeholders must be encouraged to participate in a variety of ways, to ensure the plan captures the diversity of opinion and reflects the community’s vision,” said Downs. “Over the next few months, members of the (consulting) team will meet with community leaders (and) owners of local businesses. They will hold number of focus group sessions and encourage all residents, through multiple communication channels, to get involved in shaping the future of Innisfil.”
The tourism plan will focus on the promotion of key areas within the municipality, like the Big Bay Point Resort, Georgian Downs, Cookstown, Lake Simcoe and the Kempenfelt Conference Centre.
The community strategic and economic development strategies will investigate ways the municipality can retain existing businesses, while attracting new ones. It will provide guidelines for creating jobs and strategic employment areas, and potentially help develop a marketing and branding strategy.
“In every community we’ve worked with, there is some commonality,” said McSweeney. “There’s commonality in visions and where they see opportunities. That’s what we’ll have to focus on.”
The entire project is scheduled for completion by March 31. For more information, including a list of open house dates, visit www.inspiringinnisfil.ca, or contact Downs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 436- 3740 ext. 2101.