The Town of Melita is looking for some constructive feedback following an economic development meeting held there.
About 40 economic development officers from across Manitoba descended on the town May 31 to June 2 for the 2017 Economic Development Association of Manitoba (EDAM) spring forum.
A community assessment was part of the three-day event. Participants were asked to rate the community on amenities, services, strengths and perceived areas of improvement.
“I think we’ll be able to learn a lot from there once we’ve got the tally of the results,” Iris Vercaigne, Melita economic development officer, said.
“The main benefit that we see is the economic impact of having a forum done here in our community,” Vercaigne also said. “They book a lot of rooms in our hotel, for (food and beverage) consumption, there’s a lot going on during the forum and it gives us lots of good publicity that our town in the southwest corner of Manitoba can actually host conferences or forums like this.”
Participants may also draw inspiration from a host community’s success stories, Shelly Morris, EDAM association manager, said. Forum attendees heard from local entrepreneurs, volunteers and initiative leaders.
“As an opportunity for our member communities, we actually put out the offer that if anyone’s interested in hosting a forum to contact us and we’ll definitely look at the merits of that community. One of our goals though, is to take this event to as many places in the province that can accommodate our group,” Morris said.
Melita’s Banana Days, named Tourism Westman’s 2016 Event of the Year, was among the aspects highlighted as well as fitness entrepreneurs Southwest Strength.
“Hopefully, other communities, if they have young startup entrepreneurs also leaning more towards that kind of industry or practice, maybe they can also see how to approach them or how to inspire them into actually opening a gym. It has been great for our community so far,” Vercaigne said.
The development of Melita’s practical nursing program through Assiniboine Community College (ACC) was also touched upon.
Lisa Oliver, adult education co-ordinator with ACC and one of the voices spearheading the program’s arrival in Melita in January 2017, spoke on the application process. Dauphin and Portage la Prairie have also been chosen as ACC nursing program satellites, with the first courses starting in fall 2016. Each of the three sites accommodates 25 students. The community had previously taken a turn as a rotating rural site for the program.
“I think other communities will be able to pick up a few things also on how we did it,” Vercaigne said.
Topics ranged from the province’s 2017 economic outlook to case studies and rural initiatives to support health care and physician recruitment.
Physician retention was pegged as a perennial issue in small communities, which often see a revolving door of physicians relocating to urban areas once their initial terms are complete, attendees heard.
“We decided that the theme for this event was about strategic investments in communities, so we tried to look at many of the different facets that would be important for successful rural communities,” Morris said.
The event took a broad look at those issues, including an economic outlook for Manitoba to set the stage for what conditions communities could expect in the future. Panels then dove into select topics such as determining the strengths of a community and identifying opportunities.
More comprehensive training for economic development officers was also on the agenda. The first module of the program was introduced June 2. Morris said the training program will include eight modules in total. Two are ready to be rolled out, with the remainder to be developed through 2017.
“In terms of how it compared to previous years, every year is different,” Morris said. “Every forum we have an evaluation after the forum and we ask the membership, ‘What are you interested in hearing?’ and we try and reflect that in future forums.”
Tourism, business retention, housing, and economic development tools are among previous forum topics.