Norfolk County has confirmed that big changes are coming to its tourism and economic development department.
Indications were something was afoot when Norfolk council in late January trimmed $210,000 from the department’s 2020 budget.
Other shoes dropped on Feb. 3 with confirmation that long-serving tourism and economic development manager Clark Hoskin is no longer with the corporation. Also gone is business development co-ordinator Ted Willey, another long-time employee of the department.
“That is true,” Mayor Kristal Chopp said in an email. “Clark and Ted are both no longer with us.”
Bill Cridland, Norfolk’s acting CAO and general manager of community services, also confirmed the departures in an internal email to staff on Feb. 3.
“I wanted to let you know that – during budget deliberations – council voted unanimously to restructure the tourism and economic development department, revising its mandate and reducing the size of its team.
“Effective immediately, Clark Hoskin and Ted Willey are no longer with Norfolk County. I’d like to thank them both for their service to the community.”
In a news release on Feb. 3, the county says Norfolk’s annual economic symposium scheduled for this Thursday at The Aud in Simcoe will go ahead as scheduled.
The same release says that, going forward, “Staff will be directed to put their focus on attracting much-needed outside investment to the county and building partnerships within the tourism industry.”
“Norfolk County should be a haven for entrepreneurs, but we lag behind neighbouring municipalities in attracting creative business people,” Chopp said in the release.
“We should be a premier destination for travellers from all over the country. But instead, we’re still a ‘hidden gem.’ It’s just not acceptable.
“Unfortunately, we also find ourselves in a financial crunch, which is why all members of council felt strongly about taking this first step toward creating a more effective tourism and economic development program.”
Norfolk’s budget in 2019 for tourism and economic development was more than $1 million.
“Everyone in Norfolk knows how great Norfolk is. It’s about time we started introducing others to our fantastic region,” Chopp continues.
“We need a creative, modern, and effective tourism and economic development strategy. That’s why we’re going to take some time to develop a road map for the department, to ensure that Norfolk is effectively supporting its partners and attracting outside investment.”
Doing more with less was the message to staff as Norfolk council set its 2020 operating budget with an 8.4 per cent increase in residential taxes. A typical homeowner in Norfolk will see their taxes rise about $235 this year. Council said such a steep increase was necessary to close a $12 million gap between expenditures and revenue.
In his email to county staff, Cridland says “Council will be looking to develop a new road map for the tourism and economic development department, and we’ll provide updates as they’re available.
“I know these kinds of organizational changes can be difficult on everyone, so – as always – if you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your supervisor or myself.”
Hoskin was an inaugural employee of Norfolk County when the municipality was created out of the remains of Haldimand-Norfolk Region in 2000. Hoskin served in a tourism and economic development role with the region for a time before restructuring.