October 26, 2004 - by Nick Gardiner, Brockville Recorder and Times

New federal funding for economic development in eastern Ontario will be put to good use and quickly, says the Executive Director of the Grenville Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC).
Heather Lawless said the board of the non-profit corporation will meet next week to move ahead with proposals for business projects under the $10-million Eastern Ontario Development Fund (EODF), announced Monday in Cobourg by Liberal government Deputy House Leader Mauril Belanger.
The program, originally outlined in last spring's federal budget and emphasized during the election campaign by then-Leeds-Grenville MP Joe Jordan, was put in place in response to requests from 15 Community Future Development Corporations, including the 1,000 Islands CFDC in Brockville and the Valley Heartland CFDC in Smiths Falls, which will administer its operation.
While Jordan spoke of specific funding to the local CFDCs and their control over its spending, Lawless said she expects only that program funds will be distributed "equitably", with some money reserved for regional projects involving more than one corporation.
"It's based on the (local) uptake," she said.  "The new programming identifies five priority areas, and the CFDCs will have some minor flexibility based on those parameters."
Those priority areas, according to a news release from Monday's announcement, are:  business development; access to capital skills development; retention and attraction for youth; and technological enhancements.
The fund is touted as a method to improve competitiveness, diversify the economy and contribute to business development and job opportunities, and develop sustainable, self-reliant communities.
Belanger, who was making the announcement for Minister of State Joe Comuzzi, said the government is committed to making rural communities grow and prosper.
"The EODF responds to a commitment this government made in the 2004 federal budget, to assist economic renewal in eastern Ontario by investing in the local economy," Belanger said.
Tom Russell, Executive Director of the 1,000 Islands CFDC, was pleased with Monday's announcement.  "(This) is a very important announcement because it shows a commitment at Treasury Board.  It's a confirmation of what was said before and it's welcome news."
He said the new program will allow the corporation to expand its reach and include more business proposals for consideration of financial assistance.
"People are getting anxious.  This is new funding that will try to address the backlog of applications in eastern Ontario."
He said additional details about eligible projects are to be provided, but noted the CFDC will have a wider target field for funding.  CFDC staff and volunteers review business applications, establish business plans, arrange financing, and provide other resources for fledgling entrepreneurs.
Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown planned to comment on the announcement today, but postponed his response until Wednesday, said Assistant Mark King.