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Immigrants, newcomers play key role in county's economic future

The economic development committee heard a talk about attracting newcomers to support a strong economy
Jana Burns, Wellington place administrator, gives informal presentation to economic development committee.

WELLINGTON COUNTY — Future economic development in the County of Wellington involves attracting and retaining immigrants and other newcomers.

That was the message delivered at an economic development committee meeting in discussions around the county's three-year plan.

According to the County of Wellington economic development three year plan, if the county’s workforce is large enough in size and talented enough in skill, it can retain and grow local business. So the county is pushing for economic growth from immigrants and newcomers.

Jana Burns, Wellington Place administrator who has worked for 10 years in the county's economic development realm, gave a quick presentation on incorporating newcomers into the Wellington County economy.

“We are looking at the basics of economic development, connecting with businesses, providing networking opportunities,” Burns said.

She stressed that attracting newcomers into Wellington County is a big part of the economic plan.

“And we are focusing on areas that I think the entire country, all communities, should be focusing on, so newcomer attraction and retention.”

Burns had met with employers to see how they are able to incorporate newcomers into their operations.

“Companies are having to be creative when it comes to attracting new employees.” 

This process of bringing newcomers into a workplace can be very challenging for smaller companies who do not have designated human resources staff to go through that process.

“And they (employers) are looking at international markets and that certainly has implications because most companies don’t have HR departments that can just go through that process at ease.”

In Canada, growth is in newcomers.

“This year, 80 per cent of our growth across the country is coming from newcomers, in five years it will be 100 per cent.”

So in order to attract and retain newcomers into the county and into local jobs, those newcomers need to feel good about living in Wellington County.

“That certainly has implications on our communities with respect to what housing looks like, how welcoming we are.”

The three-year plan does outline actions that can be taken to ensure that the county is ready for newcomers, such as helping local businesses understand how integrating newcomers into their workforce benefits them.

“There are several actions in this plan, which focus on making sure we are prepared and we have the infrastructure in place to welcome new immigrants and newcomers outside of Wellington County, anybody.”

The committee received the three-year plan for information.

Jesse Gault is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.