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Ont. funds rural economic development

Ont. funds rural economic development

The Ontario government is now considering projects for funding through the Rural Economic Development plan to build the workforce and economic infrastructure of rural communities

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Cost-share funding through the Rural Economic Development plan supports rural communities in attracting and retaining jobs and investment, building community capacity, and diversifying rural economies. The latest intake closed on Feb. 25, and the Ontario government is now considering projects based on such criteria as eligibility, alignment with program outcomes, and budget.

Municipalities, non-profits, Ontario Indigenous communities or organizations, and Local Services Boards could submit applications in one of two streams. Projects submitted under the diversification and competitiveness stream target job creation and attracting and retaining a workforce. These types of projects are eligible for funding to cover up to 50 per cent of costs to a maximum of $150,000.

In the strategic economic infrastructure stream, up to 30 per cent of eligible project costs may be covered to a maximum of $250,000. Those projects support investment in cultural activities and tourism, underused spaces and minor capital improvements.

Investing in jobs and infrastructure for the prosperity of rural communities is a priority for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA).

“Anything we can garner from the government under the RED program is good,” Keith Currie, president of the OFA, told Farms.com. “It’s a nice little program, and we certainly push the government to not only continue it but also to find more money to put into it.”

The OFA would like to see the government continue the RED program. The organization is also “encouraging the government to broaden its spectrum of economic development; we don’t want it to be restrictive,” Currie said.

“Individual communities have different needs around economic development.”  

It may also be beneficial if more groups were eligible to apply for funding, such as service clubs or fair organizations, said Currie. However, “if there are service groups in rural Ontario that may not be eligible (but are) doing good projects, (these organizations) could always go to the municipalities,” he added.

Community groups may be able to pitch their ideas and plans to municipalities, and ask them to handle the logistics of applying for the funding.

For agriculture, the RED plan may offer opportunities to expand on agri-tourism and the marketing of local products and services.

Projects “that can be coupled with value added projects” on farms would help capture the value of agricultural products, Currie said.  

The RED plan doesn’t offer “big dollars, but some of these value-added opportunities don’t require big dollars,” he added.

Ag businesses hold immense potential for economic development in rural Ontario.

“If we can enhance (agricultural) business, that’s going to create employment and additional tax revenue in the local municipality,” Currie said. These outcomes will create positive momentum in the community.

Applicants can expect to hear about funding decisions within three months.

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