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The idea of a Vitalization plan for Cobourg’s Downtown was first suggested when Wendy Gibson and Kevin Narraway of the Economic Development Department made a presentation to Council in November 2013 (see link below). A main feature was the high cost CIVI plan but it has been shelved for now and the only action since 2013 is that a Downtown Community Improvement Plan (CIP) is getting some cosmetic improvements done. The big miss is that there is no plan to get the empty storefronts filled on King Street. There was a proposal in June 2016 to hire a consultant to create a plan but Council wondered why staff could not do this. There was then another proposal to hire a project manager to manage preparation of a plan but Council also turned this down (same reason). Now, at the Committee of the Whole meeting on August 21, Wendy Gibson is presenting yet another plan (sort of).

wendy gibsonWendy GibsonSorry Wendy, it’s not a plan to fix anything – it’s a plan to create a plan with no actual solutions!  It doesn’t help that there is a major typo in the agenda, (also the recommendation and the conclusion) – approval is requested for a budget of $39,600,000!  If you read the document it’s really only $39,600. The good news is that there is no request to hire a consultant.  This plan for a plan has been approved by the Downtown Marketing Partnership, the DBIA and the Downtown Coalition. It is also expected that it will be endorsed by the Northumberland Central Chamber of Commerce.  I expect that at the end of it, we will be no further ahead.

So what is Proposed?

Here is a summary of the work planned.

  • Phase I - Preparation (Aug - Sep 2017) – brainstorming to decide on “the focus and theme of the advertising campaign” – hire and coordinate the activities of a creative writer, photographer and videographer; attend the Franchise show in September.
  • Phase II - Research (Nov 2017) – Internet research about:
    1.  On-line advertising venues and timelines
    2.  Potential businesses to target for a second location in Cobourg.
    Information gathered will be used to personally connect with potential target businesses.
  • Phase III - Implementation (Oct 2017 - March 2018) Organizing and hosting an "Explore The Core" event, preparing client packages in both digital and print, commencing social media posts, completing the content and launching the web page, create on-line ads through the services of a graphic designer and attending two trade shows.
    From January to March 2018, concentrate on educating community partners and creating a cross promotion of activities taking place through each organization through social media, sharing web links etc.
  • Phase IV - Tracking Progress/Goals Monthly progress reports will be provided to the Downtown Coalition and adjustments to the plan may be made.

It seems to me that the only decisions made to date are:

  • Attend trade shows
  • Advertise
  • Use the web and social media
  • Look for businesses wanting to open a second location.

The so-called marketing plan presented to Council and described in the C.O.W. meeting Agenda does not really talk about solutions, just a process to get to them.

Wendy’s report says that the “Marketing Plan (is) sent under separate cover” – maybe it has more meat; one hopes so. But why not make it public?


Update - August 15

The typo in the Agenda has now been fixed.

 Update - August 21, 2017

Downtown Vitalization Business plan deferred again.

The plan was presented by Brian Wynn (Chair of Downtown Coalition) and Wendy Gibson and it was generally per the above. However, it was said that the tactics in the full plan are quite detailed with the implication that the apparent vagueness in what has been made public is resolved by the full plan. However, that raised the question of why has the full plan not been made public. The answer was that this was because it was being kept secret from the competition - other small towns. Suzanne Séguin countered with a comment that it should be public - there should be full transparency. She said there is nothing in the plan that cannot be made public and that it is morally wrong to not tell the public. She said that in fact, many towns are ahead of us and won't be copying us - more likely we will copy them.

John Henderson moved that the plan be tabled until this issue can be resolved. His motion was carried.


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