All posts by ON Regional Economic Development

Upcoming Webinar: Rural Ontario’s Population Growth During COVID-19: Fad or Trend?

Join other Ontario economic development and planning professionals on Wednesday, October 27th, 2021 from 1pm to 3pm for a webinar to discuss the rural economic

development impacts of the pandemic with a focus on population and housing trends.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in rural migration, demand for rural housing and rural house prices. The trend is not unique to Ontario and there are reports of similar trends occurring across Canada and the United States. While this migration has resulted in population growth and new economic development opportunities, it has also created pressures for existing rural infrastructure, housing affordability and municipal service delivery with the long-term outcomes of this migration unclear. This workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to discuss and better understand these trends and their economic development implications.

John Anania, Manager of the Economic Analysis Unit, Economic Development Policy Branch at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Mitchell Davidson, Executive Director of the StrategyCorp Institute of Public Policy and Economy and Cody Joudry, Director of Development and Tourism, Dufferin County will kick-off the webinar with presentations on the economic development impacts of the pandemic, with a focus on population and housing trends.

A facilitated discussion with participants will follow to explore and share details on how these trends are impacting different rural areas, including but not limited to housing affordability/housing adequacy, human capital attraction/retention, business development, infrastructure development and municipal service delivery, etc.

For more information on the Webinar, please visit the Rural Ontario Institute Website.

Register today for the Agri-Food Forum 2021 – Innovation and Resiliency in the Agri-Food Sector

Join us virtually on November 3 & 4th, 2021 for the 13th annual Municipal Agriculture Economic Development & Planning Forum – Agri-Food Forum 2021– Innovation and Resiliency in the Agri-Food Sector, co-hosted by The Regional Municipality of York and OMAFRA.

Two half-day sessions will kick off with a keynote presentation Facing our Futures by Nikolas Badminton, Chief Futurist for By 2050, the United Nations has stated that we will need to grow 60% more food than today. To do that we need to look to new innovative practices, exponential technologies, and diverse ways of thinking about food production to help us achieve that. Nikolas will take us from ‘what is’ to ‘what if…’ and help us imagine the potential for an incredible future for agriculture and agri-food sector. Other topics on day one: Accelerating & Incubating Agri-Food Businesses; Spotlight on Local Businesses; the Agriculture Systems Approach in Action and Event Barns as an On-Farm Diversification Use.

Day two will kick off with keynote presentation by Patti Thompson of King Cole Ducks.  Patti is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at King Cole Ducks. Patti has won the BMO “Celebrating Women in Agriculture Award” at the Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference and is valued for her contributions and knowledge in the agricultural sector. King Cole is the only fully vertically integrated farm of its kind in North America, producing around 2.5 million ducks each year. Other topics throughout the second day: Creating a Regional Circular Economy in Guelph-Wellington; the Rise of Vertical Farming; Innovation & Resilience in Response to COVID-19; breakout sessions featuring 6 timely land use planning and agriculture economic development topics.

The forum will close with keynote Building Bridges to Public Trust in Food and Farming by Crystal Mackay of Loft 32 and Crystal Mackay is a recognized leader in earning public trust in food and agriculture in Canada. She will share her insights on what it takes for individuals, companies, and municipalities to engage in and create better conversations about food and farming.

Before October 15, there is an early bird registration rate of $99 for both days of the Agri-Food Forum 2021– Innovation and Resiliency in the Agri-Food Sector.  For more information and to register visit

Regional Economic Analysis Community of Practice Webinar

Join other economic development professionals on Thursday, October 21st, 2021 from 2pm to 3:15pm for a panel discussion about regional economic analysis and how to utilize data to support decision making. 

This session is designed to help participants: 

  • Gain a better understanding of existing regional and local data to support planning and recovery efforts, such as regional economic base, growth opportunities, sector impact, workforce, and its uses in strategy development
  • Learn how other communities have utilized different Analyst reports and other data to further their economic development objectives 
  • Network with others that use a data driven approach to economic development

Presentations by panelists representing the County of Simcoe and Niagara Region will cover the objectives listed above and will be followed by a discussion and Q&A segment. 

Register here.  

OMAFRA provides economic development tools, training, and technical guidance to rural Ontario communities. Learn more about the OMAFRA Analyst program

Teeny Tiny Summit

Welcoming Newcomers to Teeny Tiny Places

Key Note Speaker: Tareq Hadhad

Many of our small rural communities’ struggle to attract new residents to fill their workforce gaps and support ongoing community investment. This Teeny Tiny Summit will feature Tareq Hadhad. Tareq was once a displaced refugee who immigrated to Canada in 2015, as war gripped Syria and his home city of Damascus. Supported by a small town in Nova Scotia upon landing, Tareq and his family built an internationally successful chocolate manufacturing business called Peace By Chocolate. Tareq will share his insights on how the community of Antigonish worked together to make him and his family feel welcome, and the meaningful supports they received as newcomers to a small rural community. His story will highlight the importance of bringing newcomers to a rural community, who bring with them new skills, determination and in his case, a thriving business. Tareq will provide additional perspectives on what it’s like building a business in a small rural community and the importance of community in job creation.

The program will also include success stories from small places throughout the province, and opportunities to share and learn from other community leaders. Much of the content is focused on what can be accomplished by volunteers working together with municipalities. In small places, volunteers are a critical part of economic development. Many of the presenters and participants are volunteers.

Immediately following the webinar, be sure to join our chat by searching on Twitter for #TeenyTinySummit to connect, network and share ideas on welcoming newcomers to Teeny Tiny Places.

The Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) has committed to multi-year support of the Teeny Tiny program allowing high quality keynote speakers to be secured for this year’s webinars, including Tareq Hadhad as the kickoff keynote speaker.

Registration will open soon at for the October 13, webinar.

Business Retention + Expansion Program

Introducing the Refreshed OMAFRA BR+E Coordinator’s Manual

The Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) is an action-oriented and community-based program that aims to support local business growth and community development through identifying challenges and opportunities. The Program’s Four Stage Process helps to:

  • Prepare the groundwork and project team
  • Collect and analyze immediate concerns and opportunities
  • Develop goals, action plan, and data analysis
  • Implement the plan and track progress

The BR+E program can become a key component of a community’s ongoing economic development strategies and projects and is a great approach to strengthen businesses in your community.

Coordinator’s Manual Updates:

The BR+E Coordinator’s Manual has recently been redesigned and now features a modern layout centered on visual simplicity. The third version of the Coordinator’s Manual is designed to support communities and BR+E project coordinators. The document provides details around the Four Stage BR+E Process as well as key resources and tools to assist with the completion of the stages.


Along with the modern redesign of the BR+E Coordinator’s manual, the OMAFRA BR+E Program transitioned to a new data collection and analysis tool – QualtricsXM – as of June of 2020.

Qualtrics is a renowned data analysis and visualization platform, designed to optimize data collection, analysis and visualization. The transition to QualtricsXM has been met with positive feedback from BR+E coordinators, owing to its user-friendly interface and robust batch of features.

QualtricsXM provides efficient and functional tools to help with:

  • Project Organization
  • Surveying
  • Distribution channels
  • Data Analysis and Correlation
  • Reports
  • Contacts
  • Administration

Communities undertaking BR+E initiatives with the support of OMAFRA have the option of accessing the platform at no cost for the duration of their projects.

For more information about the recent changes to the BR+E Coordinator Manual or to learn more about QualtricsXM, visit the Business Retention + Expansion Program website.


The Rural Economic Development (RED) program supports activities that create strong rural communities in Ontario and opens doors to rural economic development. The program is now open and will accept applications until October 1, 2021.

If you missed our program webinar, you can access a recording of the session here.

The slides below were presented during the session and provide some helpful tips to consider when completing your application.

Applicants are required to read the program guidelines before completing an application. The program guidelines provide detailed information on eligible applicants, project types, and costs, as well as the process for submitting an application and the process that will be used to assess the application.

For more information on the program including guidelines, applications, and approved projects, please visit

Recap: Growing Agri-Tourism Initiatives in Your Community

On August 19, 2021, the Agriculture Economic Development and Planning Community of Practice hosted an online webinar where participants had a chance to learn more about recent agri-tourism research and initiatives across the province.

Two main initiatives discussed in the webinar were:

Continue reading Recap: Growing Agri-Tourism Initiatives in Your Community

Rural Economic Development (RED) Program Opens on August 30th

The Rural Economic Development (RED) program is open from August 30, 2021 to October 1, 2021. You can find all program information including how to apply on the program’s homepage on August 30, 2021.

Information Sessions

OMAFRA staff will be conducting two public webinars to provide an overview of the RED program, and discuss the process for applying to the program. Please bring your questions as there will be a Q&A period. The sessions will be on the following dates:

  • September 2, 11:00am-12:00pm EST
  • September 16, 1:00pm-2:00pm EST

Sign up on the session registration page

Ontario’s Rural Economic Development (RED) program provides cost-share funding to support activities that create strong rural communities in Ontario and open doors to rural economic development.

What are RED Outcomes?

RED applications are assessed on their ability to result in one or more of the following:

Continue reading Rural Economic Development (RED) Program Opens on August 30th

Save the Date: Agri-Food Forum 2021 – Innovation and Resiliency in the Agri-Food Sector

On November 3-4, 2021, the 13th annual Municipal Agriculture Economic Development & Planning Forum is taking place! The forum is co-hosted by The Regional Municipality of York and OMAFRA. 

The forum theme is “Innovation and Resiliency in the Agri-Food Sector”. Two half-day sessions will be filled with speakers and panel presentations on enabling innovation and a resilient agri-food system within Ontario and at the local level. Virtual tours of York Region’s agri-food assets, the Holland Marsh growers and York Farm Fresh members will allow participants to explore York Region.

Continue reading Save the Date: Agri-Food Forum 2021 – Innovation and Resiliency in the Agri-Food Sector

Exhibit with the Ontario Pavilion at PLMA Chicago, January 30th – February 1st, 2022!

The Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) is hosting an in-person event in January 2022 for experienced and export-ready food and beverage manufacturers who have an interest in starting or growing their private label products export to the US.

PLMA is a worldwide organization of more than 3,200 manufacturers and marketers of private label products, which includes food and non-food products. The annual PLMA trade show in Chicago is the cornerstone private label show in North America, and historically, more than 1,500 companies from 40 companies exhibit their products, including 25 international pavilions. With 80% of Ontario’s agri-food exports going to the United States in 2020, the US is the largest and most important export market for Ontario.

Continue reading Exhibit with the Ontario Pavilion at PLMA Chicago, January 30th – February 1st, 2022!