It’s been a few weeks since I wrote that note on my thoughts on Economic Development in the Town of Carleton Place and specifically the lack any official leadership or position by our council. I know that sounds harsh, but after spending that time digging in and talking with people, that’s basically where we’re at.
There is no mandate, no game plan, no guidance on trade and commerce in place. I spoke ‘off the record’ with four of our current council and several past Councillors, I’ve met with folks from the Chamber and from the BIA, I also talked with several businesses owners and many many residents who stopped me to discuss my words. I’m still shocked. It’s really surprising to me, that a town that tackles other areas so well (Parks and Recreations, Sports, Arts, History, Daycare) will have left something as important as this, unattended for so long.
What I did find gives me hope though. I found passion, frustration, enthusiasm, energy, and willingness. One things for sure, the people of this town, put their heart into it. The ability to accomplish much is here, the direction and guidance is not. There is currently no cohesive means by which we can collaborate on opportunities when they come up, and they have come up. We have a lot of red tape and hurdles that we seem to throw up in front of ourselves, basically shooting ourselves in the foot. We have a very profound awareness that certain specific things need to change but no road-map for making those changes happen. We have a lot of little pockets of people working their butts off to make things better but no one bringing them together and making sure we’re all shooting at the same target.
So, where does that leave us and what can be done next….or rather….what will I do next. Well, here’s what I’m thinking. I like to take lessons of success from history, I mean, if it’s worked before, it’s worth trying again. “We the People” is the start of the US Constitution, a document created to guide a country into the future. Written over the course of a summer by a group of 55 people representing all walks of life. Farmers, blacksmiths, doctors, bankers, merchants…all brought value and perspective. I think that’s what we need. I’m looking at this from a business point of view, and the financial aspect of improving the amount of business in our town. I’m a people person, which is probably why I’m a decent salesperson, but I’m also smart enough to know I don’t have all the answers and that my perspective is limited. This is bigger than one person with one perspective.
This is where we need the people of Carleton Place. There are many people in this town smarter then I am, more educated and with more experience, we need them to join in. There are many people passionate about our town, eager to contribute and help, we need them to join in. We have so many areas of greatness in this town, so much to be proud of and so much to show off, we need that represented as we move forward. There is a starting place, a new initiative called “I believe in CP” it’s simple, it’s direct and it’s an easy way to show your support.
We all believe in our town, it’s why we’re still here, it’s why we send our kids to these schools, play on these teams, join these clubs and walk these streets. We need input and collaboration from a lot of you. Currently there is no light in the dark, shining the way to the finish line, but a starting point has been marked, and that’s a step in the right direction. We seem to get a lot of ‘reports’ on things that have already happened, summaries of past accomplishments or failures, but what we’re not getting is a clear picture of what we’re working on now and what we’re heading into next.
I would like to see a list put together that can answer some questions I still have: “What are we working on as a town right now?” What projects are currently on going and what does the rest of this year look like? “What is next on our list and why is it next on our list?” What does the next 12-36 months look like, what’s going to be happening around town and what are we getting ready to accomplish. It’s not just business and trade, as I said above. Those of us who have been here for awhile feel the cultural changes as well.
Someone on my facebook feed mentioned she heard a Dad whistle for his kids to come in for supper and that reminded her of her childhood, playing outside until the yell for supper would ring out. Those days are almost gone in our town. Kids used to run safely all over the place, we knew everyone, we were connected to each other, we could leave our keys in our cars (I don’t recommend that one folks) but you know what I mean, we had “Community”, and currently we don’t have those feelings in our town. There has to be a way we can look at bringing that back. We’re great at rallying around a person in need, this town has a big heart, but the day in day out connections are not there like they were 20 years ago. That feeling, that sentiment, is why many of us have either stayed in this town or returned to it to raise our family.
There’s more to come, for now I’ve volunteered to help with the I Believe in CP initiative. I haven’t got all the answers I’m looking for yet, but I’m getting the proper questions together. There’s still more people to talk to, but if the plans this town needs don’t currently exist, then that has to be where this starts. So far this spring I’ve had the chance to drive from Pembroke to Kingston and hit pretty much every little town and village in between. I haven’t seen anything with the beauty and potential we have here in Carleton Place. We’re missing the boat on a couple simple things that can give us quick and easy wins and point us in a better direction. I’m going to find out why we’re not doing them. In the meantime, watch for me to start posting things online about I Believe in CP and look for ways to add your voice.