February 25, 2004

Tweed News - by Maril Swan

Tweed, ON - Some surprising findings came out of the Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) Survey.  On Wednesday, February 18, a small group of ardent Tweedites listened to Lyn Cloes and Bob Cloes of Community Futures Development Corporation, as they reviewed the survey data compiled from the 30 business interviews conducted last November and December.  The meeting was held in Hungerford Hall from 7:00 to about 9:30 p.m.  Tweed's current situation and future were discussed, and a Steering Committee developed to start some new projects and directions.  Several members of the Chamber of Commerce and two councillors attended the meeting.

Tweed is not in decline 
The BRE Survey, done in collaboration with the Tweed Chamber of Commerce, produced a snapshot of Tweed's commercial and economic situation.  The perception that Tweed is in decline is not borne out by the facts.
Of the 30 businesses surveyed, 11 planned to undertake major renovations, and 19 were planning to expand or change their operations.  These changes will lead to an increase in the work force and in the floor space, additional investments in equipment and technology, and additional products for customers.
These area businesses perceived the advantage of operating in this municipality as being higher quality of life, lower land costs, support from local residents and businesses, and reasonable municipal taxes.  Among the disadvantages they listed:  low availability of skilled labour; difficult access to telecommunications, such as fibre optics and high speed internet; less access to training facilities; difficult access to supplies; and a small local market.

Business is good here 
19 of the businesses noted their total sales had increased in the last two years, and expected this trend to continue.  They gave top marks to the Municipality of Tweed service, with 12 rating it "Excellent" and 8 as "Good".  12 businesses expect to be hiring, with a possibility of 45 to 79 new jobs being created.  However, 11 businesses said they had trouble recruiting qualified employees.
The businesses listed some elements lacking in the local workforce, such as work ethics, trade skills and computer skills.

Downtown needs facelift 
Most of the respondents said the appearance of the retail area was fair to poor; there were some parking problems, more variety of shops needed to attract people, better accessibility was needed for the handicapped, planning needed for promotions, and uniform hours of operation among the stores.

Youth needs attention 
A recurring item in the survey was the number of young people loitering on the street and impeding pedestrians.  The retail businesses would prefer these youths have a place to go to get together.  Most of the respondents favoured youth programs and facilities, to alleviate this problem with young people having nothing to do or no place of their own to go.

Time to start planning 
Following Lyn Cloes' review of the survey, Bob Cloes explained what Community Futures could do for the municipality.  The corporation's mandate is mainly to offer their expertise in business planning and make loans available for capital expenditures.  Cloes said he was willing to do whatever was needed, for as long as required, to realize the plans.
The first step, Cloes emphasized, is planning - knowing where you are now and where you want to be.  The survey shows Tweed where it perceives itself to be.  The next step is to decide where Tweed wants to be in the future, what kind of municipality and town is envisioned, then plan the steps to get there.

Get on board! 
3 people at the meeting volunteered for the Steering Committee, but more are needed to start the planning process.  The Steering Committee will also spin off several other Action Committees, who will work together to produce results.  Some of these committees might be:  downtown image; area marketing; youth committee; and so on.
A residence survey will be mailed out with the tax bills soon.  The Chamber of Commerce is urging recipients to fill out this important document and return it as soon as possible, so that data can be compiled by Community Futures.
A further meeting is planned for March 8, at 7:00 p.m., at Hungerford Hall, and the results of the residence survey should be available.  Anyone interested in Tweed's future prosperity should attend.