Simcoe.com • Collingwood Connection • by Scott Woodhouse • April 28, 2015 – Collingwood is home a new breed of entrepreneurs who are banking on the area’s true four-season appeal for continued investment and growth.
A Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ (CFIB) ranking of Canada’s top entrepreneurial cities put Collingwood in seventh place in the best mid-sized entrepreneurial city category.
The report looked at 14 indicators, grouped into three categories: presence, perspective and policy. Collingwood ranked first out of more than 120 cities across Canada in presence – a measurement of the scale and growth of business ownership – meaning there is a large and growing concentration of independent businesses in the area.
Russell Higgins and Garnet Pratt Siddall are two such entrepreneurs. Higgins is president of MacPherson Builders and Pratt Siddall is the CEO of Side Launch Brewing Co. Ltd. Their products may be divergent, but they both agree Collingwood is a great place to do business.
The two entrepreneurs recently co-hosted an event to cross promote their respective businesses. While invited guests toured MacPherson’s latest executive chalet at Windrose Estates and sampled Side Launch’s premium craft beers, they took time out to discuss why they are banking on Collingwood.
“We love the Collingwood area,” said Higgins over a glass of Side Launch Canadian Pale Ale. “Collingwood is the only true four-season resort area in Ontario. It’s the one place where there is something going on all year long. There are many other resort areas, but they all peter out after the long weekend.”
“Collingwood has reached a critical mass – it has everything you need: an excellent hospital, larger retail stores like Home Depot and Canadian Tire and boutiques and specialty shops like Dags and Willow, who are catering our event today,” he said.
Higgins believes Collingwood and the southern Georgian Bay area will continue to grow in demand for many years to come. As proof, his company has four projects on the go in the area: Blue Fairways, 450 units; The Orchard, which is now complete; Windrose Estates, 37 units; and another project Home Farm, which is in the planning stages and will have 270 units.
“Collingwood is attracting more and more individuals and professionals whose jobs are mobile, because they would sooner live here than in a big city or suburbia. And of course more and more boomers are looking to this area as the ideal place to retire,” said Higgins. “People come to here to play because there are so many great outdoor pursuits and many of them decide to stay because of the tremendous quality of living.”
Garnet Pratt Siddall was one.
The president and chief executive officer of Side Launch Brewing Co. Ltd., has been coming to Collingwood since 2003 and has been dreaming about brewing her own beer since 2007. The original plan fell through with the market crash in 2008, but was revived in 2010 with Pratt Siddall at the helm of a group of investors who all have ties to Collingwood.
“We chose Collingwood because it is a fantastic hub of activity,” she said.
Back then, she was on a break from her career in investment banking, looking for a career change and a way to stay in Collingwood. Now, she’s sipping her own Side Launch Dark Lager.
“I wanted a change from my career in finance to something more entrepreneurial,” she said, adding the opportunity to lead a craft brewery start-up was the perfect opportunity to work and play in the same place.
“Our first brew was started on Good Friday last year,” she said, noting their Side Launch Pale Ale, Side Launch Wheat Beer and Side Launch Dark Lager are now available at the Brewer’s Retail and LCBO as well as at their own retail store at 200 Mountain Road and local pubs and restaurants.
Pratt Siddall says she and her fellow investors saw an opportunity to create a new industry and a tourism destination for the millions who visit the Georgian Triangle annually. She added Collingwood’s close proximity to Highway 400 and Toronto, make it easier to get their product to the GTA market and beyond.
The Town of Collingwood wants to continue to promote the area to entrepreneurs like Higgins and Pratt Siddall, as well as retirees, says the town’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, Martin Rydlo.
Rydlo notes Collingwood was one of the smallest communities, and the only Ontario municipality, in the top 10 in the CFIB rankings.
“The lifestyle Collingwood offers appeals to people in all stages of their lives and careers, and it makes Collingwood an ideal community for people who are looking to start or expand a business,” said Rydlo. “The community support for entrepreneurs, from the Town, the residents and the fellow business owners is amazing.”
Mayor Sandra Cooper believes the entrepreneurial spirit has always been a key part of Collingwood.
“From the early days of shipbuilding, Collingwood has attracted entrepreneurs and business owners,” said Mayor Cooper. “Our downtown core appeals to people because of the variety of shops, services and restaurants available, and visitors know they can experience exceptional quality and unique opportunities. This not only attracts shoppers, but also other businesses that want to be located close to such amenities.”
The Business Development Centre (BDC), which opened in August 2014, is another example of Collingwood’s entrepreneurial initiative, says Rydlo.
The centre is a collaborative effort between the Town of Collingwood, the Centre for Business and Economic Development, the South Georgian Bay Small Business Enterprise Centre, and the Downtown Collingwood Business Improvement Association.
Rydlo believes the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ (CFIB) report is great news for the Town and the Business Development Centre.
“New business owners need to locate in a community that is going to offer them the best chance of success,” said Rydlo. “Between the recognition from the CFIB and the support available from the BDC, we believe that new business owners, and business owners looking to expand, will see great potential in Collingwood.”