MDB Insight Blog


Waterfront Property Owners: Tap into Their Potential in Your Community

Many rural municipalities lose skilled labour, entrepreneurs, and businesses to urban centres: workers follow the jobs. Finding the tax dollars to fund rural economic development that will then convince these businesses to stay isn’t always easy.

But for some communities, there’s a powerful economic force that may be overlooked or not properly utilized: waterfront property owners. According to a recent study conducted by the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA), waterfront property owners contribute around $700 million annually to rural municipalities. The question is how can this sector of the population be integrated into your rural economy by bringing their business permanently into your community?

The Problems Preventing Waterfront Property Owners from Relocating

Here are the three main barriers preventing waterfront property owners (WPOs) from permanently relocating or opening a business in a rural community:

  1. Tech gaps: Poor internet speeds and low cell reception in some rural areas prevent entrepreneurs from making the switch to a comfortable cottage-run business. FOCA suggests that an investment in rural high-speed internet services can increase the appeal of your community to a WPO.

  2. Municipal services: Many cottage communities have different systems for municipal services, systems that can seem daunting to the uninitiated. If a WPO perceives a lack of adequate garbage pickup or snow clearance, they may be less likely to relocate their business. According to FOCA, municipal investment in year-round infrastructure and social services could encourage WPOs to relocate.

  3. Lack of networking: Cottage communities can be isolating for a reason. How else would you “get away” for the weekend? But what’s good for a relaxing summer vacation is not necessarily good for business. Cottage entrepreneurs are likely to be turned off if they perceive a lack of a community built around the businesses in your rural area. FOCA suggests the creation of local economic development advisory committees with local WPOs to foster communication and dialogue between these powerhouses and your rural economic development.

A community that can solve these three problems for WPOs will be more likely to see businesses opening and tax dollars coming in. To understand if your municipality truly has the kinds of businesses and residents to make this strategy worthwhile, it is worth conducting a BR+E of your municipality to see if a WPO business network is a viable option.

With such a study, you can fully understand your economy’s needs, and see if WPO-run businesses could help address weaknesses. Every community is different, but if yours is the right fit for WPO expansion, it could bring investment, community building, and new jobs, keeping skills, expertise, and businesses in your municipality.

Learn more about the value of rural economic development:

Ensure Your Next BR+E Initiative Strengthens Your Local Economy Infographic


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