Cornwall should move quickly on remote work task force: remote worker

Cornwall remote worker Kelly Bergeron. Bergeron believes the city needs to move quickly on its task force to attract remote workers, with other Eastern Ontario municipalities starting recruitment campaigns and the threats of coronavirus growing by the day. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – An outspoken remote worker from Cornwall believes a municipal task force to attract remote workers is a great idea.

Kelly Bergeron lives in the city and works for a company in San Francisco, Calif. She is the former executive director of the then-Cornwall Innovation Center.

Last week, city council agreed with a move by Coun. Justin Towndale to form the task force to recruit remote workers. Those are people who work from home – usually they have a home office – and perform tasks for a company in another city.

“I think a task force is great and having a lot of really good ideas around the table will certainly work. I don’t think we need to put too much effort into it as much as doing all the research because there’s already so much research out there,” Bergeron said in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch.

She says the timing is right to attract remote workers, especially with workers overseas being told to stay home because of the coronavirus. “If this ends up being a pandemic, it will be beneficial that companies are more open to remote working.”

“No one is really broadcasting this opportunity in Canada. Many cities and states in the U.S. have actually done this,” Bergeron said, referring to Vermont where remote workers are offered $10,000 to relocate to the state.

Bergeron concedes that the City of Cornwall may not have money to do that but it could offer other incentives. She says there’s also an opportunity to help those with disabilities and “aging out of the workforce” into the fold with remote work.

Cornwall Economic Development Division Manager Bob Peters told council last week there is no money in the budget right now for a “strategy for remote workers.”

Bergeron says the city could access government grants, local sponsorship and partnerships, to promote remote work instead of going to the local taxpayer.

She sees the task force as a group looking to create an “event” or “series of events” to attract people to the Seaway City and also doing promotion.

Bergeron says the task force – which still has to be created – would benefit from having a couple of remote workers on it, in addition to councillors and city staff. “I know a few people who are already doing that, who would be willing to sit down and share why they like it and how they see it benefitting themselves and why they chose to stay in Cornwall.”

She says the remote workforce in Cornwall “is mostly hidden” but some are active on social media. Bergeron believes there’s roughly seven Shopify employees, as well as someone working for Google in the outskirts of the city.

A report on the terms of reference and makeup of the task force will be coming to a future council meeting.

“I think we need to move quickly because…we’re almost going to be forced to go to remote work at the rate this virus (coronavirus) is happening. We won’t even have a choice and what are parents going to do when their kids aren’t going to school?” Bergeron said.

“If they were able to work from home, how easy would that be for them to continue working but not have to worry about child care?”