Trending #4 on Twitter. Newspaper stories in national dailies. Clips on network television and conversations on both CBC and Talk Radio. Seven word quotes that fit easily in soundbites and headlines.

This week Owen Sound and Grey County have had free "ink and air" worth millions of dollars in the advertising world; attention that marketers only dream about.

Is there really "no such thing as bad publicity"?

You may have voted for Larry Miller as your MP. You may agree with his feelings about the Supreme Court decision that the Conservative government's ban on wearing face coverings in citizenship ceremonies violated Canada's Citizenship Act. But you have also paid taxes to create economic development and tourism strategies at both the city and county levels and offer incentives to prospective developers. Has this week's focus on our region leveraged this investment in a positive way?


Grey County has its challenges. Our growth rate has been 1.5% when Ontario's is almost 12%. The median age here is seven years older than the province's and our largest industry is health care and social assistance. Homes are cheaper, but incomes are lower. Local employers have difficulty finding skilled trades and professionals to meet their needs.

In Owen Sound, taxes and growth were the driving issues in last fall's municipal election. Ian Boddy campaigned on bringing new residents and businesses to the city, increasing the tax base to offset essential expenses. In the Chamber of Commerce's Make It Your Business publication, the new mayor is quoted as looking forward to the city "transitioning to future growth in post-secondary education, health and creative information-based technologies."

Owen Sound knows what it needs. The last Economic Development and Tourism Advisory Committee named targets – First Impressions, Welcoming Communities, Youth Retention and Attraction, Intelligent Communities. It made attracting new Canadians a priority. Made in Grey, the county's draft economic development strategy, describes how we must become investment ready by "creating an environment where an investor feels most secure expanding, starting or relocating a business."

Will the recent spotlight on Grey-Bruce-Owen Sound's elected representatives advance this agenda?

The response from the leadership of both the city and county to our recent national publicity could be characterized as cautious, bordering on non-existent. Mayor Boddy has said the city will be "monitoring things in days to come" and echoed the plans of Economic Development Manager Steve Furness that there will be "careful adjustments in our messaging as we think necessary." Deputy Mayor Arlene Wright, speaking in Boddy's absence over March Break, said there had been no meetings since Mr. Miller's remarks went viral, but that perhaps the subject would be raised by community members at the public consultation on the city's Strategic Plan.
And perhaps a Hub reader may just raise it.

That meeting begins at 6 p.m. tonight, March 25, at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre.



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