March 2021
Your monthly news & updates
The Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC) commends the Government of Ontario on the release of its 2021 Ontario Budget, including a landmark $2.8-billion investment in broadband infrastructure.

The announcement reaffirms the Province’s strong commitment to ensuring that all Ontarians have access to fast, reliable connectivity by 2025, which is a top priority of the WOWC. This funding is extremely appreciated and recognized within Southwestern Ontario, as it is urgently needed to address the many large connectivity gaps and to allow rural regions like ours to close the digital divide.
The Western Ontario Wardens' Caucus Receives
Rural Economic Development Funding
The Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus has received a grant of up to $74,900 from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to expand the ConnectON database and asset mapping services by sharing farming, food processor and manufacturing business data to support the agri-food supply chain.

Completing the Western Ontario Wardens Caucus municipal members agri-food and manufacturing mapping project has provided current, accurate data that can be used to inform and strategize provincial and municipal solutions for economic development, planning and pandemic response and recovery. 

The ConnectON Tool provides valuable insights to Economic Developers, adding another tool to the box for increasing investment attraction to the region. By mapping the sector assets, we are able to have insight as to where food processing and manufacturing occurs, and where there are gaps. In turn, this will lead to targeted investment attraction, to fill gaps within the value chain and offer existing business the ability to grow within the Province.

SWIFT Expands Broadband Access in the Region

SWIFT Announces Broadband Expansion Plans For Middlesex County

  • SWIFT awards $7.5 million in contracts to support six fibre-to-the-home projects in Middlesex County.
  • More than 1,117 households and businesses to see improvements in broadband service.
  • An additional funding announcement and greater broadband expansion plans are expected for Middlesex County pending final negotiations and approvals

SWIFT Announces Plans To Expand Broadband Internet In Perth County

  • Perth County to receive $6.6 million in broadband upgrades to support five fibre-to-the-home projects.
  • The newly announced projects will collectively service 194 kilometres of underserved roadway to bring better broadband connectivity to 869 households and businesses within the municipalities of North Perth, West Perth and within the Township of Perth East.

SWIFT Expanding Access To High-Speed Internet In Elgin County

  • Elgin County to receive $6.1 million in broadband upgrades.
  • The newly announced projects will collectively service 114 kilometres of underserved roadway to bring better broadband connectivity to 1,399 households and businesses within the municipalities of Dutton Dunwich, West Elgin, Bayham and within the Township of Southwold.


2020 Economic Development Association of Canada Marketing Awards
Congratulations to all of the 2020 EDAC Marketing Award winners. Of special note are those award recipients from the WOWC region;

  • Rural Oxford Economic Development: Rural Oxford E-Business Grant Program

  • The County of Brant
  • The County of Brant COVID 19 Economic Response
  • Brant Works Video
  • Brant Works

  • Bruce County
  • Find Your Career in Bruce County Workforce Development and Attraction Strategy 2021-2025
  • Support the Bruce: Business Sustainability Fund
  • Bruce County Adventures: Coming Soon

  • Middlesex County: Middlesex County Culinary Guide

  • Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership - Sarnia-Lambton Publications


Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership Wins Gold for
Innovative Promotional Video Series
The Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership (SLEP) has won gold in an international competition that honours excellence in digital creativity. 

The AVA Digital Awards recently announced its 2021 winners, giving SLEP top marks for a series of videos and online content about the value of locating an innovative business in the Sarnia-Lambton area.  

The series of 12 videos showcase successful local businesses, highlighting the Sarnia-Lambton area’s key role in innovation across all sectors including manufacturing, clean technologies, information technology and agriculture. 

Middlesex County Serves Up a New Standard by Supporting Local
Middlesex County in partnership with Sarnia Lambton has launched the "From our Hands to Your Table" project! It is of utmost importance to showcase local producers and restauranteurs working together; thereby, encouraging our local food sector to thrive. With the release of this video series, the hope is to inspire businesses to keep collaborations local and spark interest among consumers regarding their food choices.

You are invited to view each video and learn more about local producers and restauranteurs through each project partner's website and social media channels. 

Automation Accelerator program offered to local manufacturers
Area partners are excited to launch the Automation Accelerator pilot program to create a responsive, industry-driven solution that provides regional manufacturers with training and knowledge to implement Industry 4.0 solutions.

The pilot project is supported by the County of Simcoe, member municipalities, the cities of Barrie and Orillia, Georgian College, Lakehead University and the Government of Ontario.

“This exciting program will help businesses to access training and much-needed support to overcome learning curves often associated with adopting new technology,” said Warden George Cornell. “We’re pleased to launch this initiative and execute on feedback that we’ve heard from our industry partners around their needs and requirements to adapt and recover from this pandemic.”


Impact of Covid-19 on Rural Employment to February 2021
In February 2021, the rural employment gap had declined to -1.6% which equaled the small gap in December 2020 and is the smallest employment gap since the onset of COVID-19.

The rural employment gap has been (slightly) less than the urban employment gap for most months during the period from March 2020 to February 2021.

The rural and urban employment gaps were essentially the same in the August to November 2020 period but, over the last three months of regional closures during the second wave, Ontario’s larger urban centres (LUCs) saw larger drop-offs in employment than in rural areas.


Province Appoints Board of Directors of Invest Ontario
The Ontario government has appointed the first members to the Board of Directors of Invest Ontario, the new provincial agency focused on promoting the province as key investment destination.

The board will lead the new agency and will report to Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and will advise on key opportunities to spur Ontario's economic recovery and growth in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

Heading the agency as Chair is Elyse Allan, an accomplished executive with experience in driving growth, technology and innovation. 

Impact of COVID 19 on Food Services and Drinking Places
On March 18th, 2021 Statistics Canada released its report on the impact of COVID 19 on food services and drinking places.

In March 2020—and continuing throughout the month of April—government interventions were put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time provinces restricted access to and implemented closures of non-essential businesses.

Since then, the industry has experienced constant challenges, exacerbated by the need to adapt in light of repeated re-openings and shutdowns as a result of fluctuations in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country.

WOCFDCA: Regional Relief Recovery Fund Huge Success



The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) was a huge help to all businesses in the Western Region of Ontario. The number of businesses that WOCFDCA was able to help with this fund was truly amazing. 

All the hard work the CFDCs put into ensuring that the money was delivered cannot go unmentioned. Thank you to all for your hard work and dedication to your business communities. Believing in the value SMEs bring to communities all over is what makes the Community Futures Program one of the driving forces behind rural success.