CORNWALL – “Nobody is going to come and fix your community.”
Those empowering words from Ontario Chamber of Commerce President Allan O’Dette Tuesday afternoon as he met with members of the Cornwall and South Stormont Chambers of Commerce.
O’Dette told the business luncheon of nearly 75 people at the Best Western Inn & Conference Center in Cornwall that in order for local businesses to succeed they need to work together and “stop tearing each other down.”
The provincial chamber president also said the keys to success are empowering the next generation by inviting them into the fold and to not being afraid to let them make mistakes.
O’Dette pointed to recent councillors-elect Carilyne Hebert and Justin Towndale in the audience as a good sign of the youthful health and wellness in the community.
O’Dette believes Cornwall will also have to embrace newcomers in order to succeed. “We need newcomers (by) attracting key people into positions,” citing a lack of workers in some skilled trades.
During his 25 minute speech, President O’Dette suggested Cornwall and South Stormont look at how to export their goods and services to other markets, starting with the United States and then looking overseas.
There are roughly 30 million people in Canada and 1.5 billion in China. One of the largest sectors in Ontario is agriculture and O’Dette questioned why Cornwall wasn’t looking at “(food) processing and feeding the world” using its logistics infrastructure. “You have a strategic, competitive advantage.”
He also believes Cornwall is “sitting on an important asset” in the Nav Center and the logistics hub. “You need to build it out and make it strategically more competitive than others.”
And he says other institutions need to be in the fold. “St. Lawrence College should be at the top of the class in understanding logistics,” O’Dette said.
Allan O’Dette’s speech was a prelude to May, 2015 when the Ontario Chamber of Commerce holds its annual general meeting in Cornwall.