New program for Haldimand & Norfolk aims to “Spark” innovative tourism ideas with grants and mentorships

A new program aimed at sparking and supporting innovative tourism ideas for Haldimand & Norfolk was officially announced today. The “Spark” Mentorships & Grants Program will match selected applicants from the region with a mentor and provide a $3,000 seed grant to help take their new tourism idea to the next level.

View the official announcement video here:    

The “Spark” Program was first piloted in Windsor-Essex in 2018 by the Tourism Innovation Lab, and has now been delivered in over 16 regions across the province and British Columbia. Its goal is to find, foster and support new tourism ideas that will enhance current offerings, address gaps or challenges, motivate travel and longer stays, and increase year-round visits.

While there are no specific categories, program organizers are especially interested in new tourism ideas that connect with agritourism, cycling, waterfront, and the winter season.

Applications are encouraged from individuals, small businesses and non-profit organizations based in Haldimand & Norfolk from November 23rd to January 14th, 2022. Following a juried review process, five finalists from Haldimand County and five finalists from Norfolk County will be invited to virtual Pitch Sessions where three winners will be selected from each.

The Haldimand & Norfolk “Spark” Program is being led by the Tourism Innovation Lab in collaboration and with support from Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation, Haldimand County, Norfolk County, Libro Credit Union, Grand Erie Business Centre and Venture Norfolk.

For more information on the Haldimand & Norfolk “Spark” Mentorships & Grants Program visit


Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation
“Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation is excited to be partnering on the expansion of “Spark” Program into Haldimand and Norfolk counties. We’ve seen some amazing ideas translate into new tourism experiences for travellers across Ontario’s Southwest, and we’re eager to see what new ideas emerge from Haldimand and Norfolk!” said Joanne Wolnik, Executive Director of the Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation.

Haldimand County
“Our goal is to inspire Haldimand & Norfolk County residents and entrepreneurs to come forward with creative ideas that will generate new innovative tourism opportunities, experiences and partnerships in our communities.  We are excited to be working together along with our project partners to capture these great ideas, and define the actions needed to put these ideas to work.  Now more than ever, the tourism industry needs innovation and the “Spark” Program is a great opportunity to launch these tourism offerings and assist entrepreneurs in getting them to the next level” said Lidy Romanuk, Manager, Economic Development & Tourism, Haldimand County.

Norfolk County
Norfolk County is thrilled to be partnering with Haldimand County on this exciting Spark program, which will provide an opportunity for our many creative entrepreneurs to bring innovative tourism product ideas to market.  With the importance of tourism and entrepreneurship to our economy, we are delighted to be part of a project that both supports the creation and growth of small businesses, while simultaneously adding exciting new product offerings for our residents and visitors to enjoy when experiencing all that Norfolk County has to offer.  We are grateful to the Tourism Innovation Lab and wonderful sponsors (SWOTC, Libro Credit Union, Venture Norfolk, Grand Erie Business Centre) for helping to make this project a reality” said Zvi Lifshiz, Director, Strategic Innovation and Economic Development, Norfolk County.

Libro Credit Union
“At Libro Credit Union, we know that working together always makes people stronger, so we find partnerships like this so rewarding. The Spark program and everyone involved in it is a great example of partnership with people who share our values. At Libro, our financial coaches work with Owners – we call our customers Owners because they own part of the company – to set goals and work towards them, and there’s nothing we like more than an exciting idea like this!” said Scott Macleod, Regional Manager Haldimand & Norfolk, Libro Credit Union.

Grand Erie Business Centre
“The “Spark” Program has a history of success in helping to develop and foster new tourism businesses and entrepreneurs. We are happy to support this program and partner with everyone involved to encourage new tourism experiences to be developed and offered in our communities.” said Tauri Caputo, General Manager, Grand Erie Business Centre.

Tourism Innovation Lab
“We are very excited to be launching the “Spark” Program in Haldimand & Norfolk,” said Justin Lafontaine, Program Lead, Tourism Innovation Lab. “As we have seen through previous rounds in southwest Ontario, innovative tourism ideas brought forward by entrepreneurs, small businesses and organizations will inspire and elevate the tourism offerings and experiences in the region.”

County launches second annual Haldimand Holiday Wish Book, encourages residents to shop local

For the second year, Haldimand County’s Economic Development and Tourism division has released the Haldimand Holiday Wish Book to encourage residents to shop & support local.

Featuring over 30 local businesses, the Holiday Wish Book is a one stop guide for local gift ideas, hand-made products and unique experiences.

Copies are being distributed to all households in by mail and will also be available for pickup at local libraries. An online, downloadable version of the Holiday Wish Book is also available at

“We received an overwhelmingly positive response from the community and local businesses when we launched the 2020 Wish Book and made it a priority to bring it back for 2021,” said Lidy Romanuk, Haldimand’s Manager of Economic Development & Tourism.

“Haldimand County has so many unique shops and experiences. We encourage residents and visitors to explore all our community has to offer and to continue supporting local,” added Romanuk.

The Holiday Wish Book also has an online directory featuring even more local businesses. Anyone can browse vendor listings and shop local from the comfort of home via the Haldimand County Marketplace.

The County’s Economic Development & Tourism division is also running 12 Days of Giveaways starting December 1, 2021 and launching a winter sweepstakes contest. Follow Tourism Haldimand on Facebook or Instagram and check out the Haldimand Holiday Wish Book Online Directory for a chance to win some great local prizes.

For more information on the Haldimand Holiday Wish Book or tips on how to support local this holiday season, visit

Businesses who would like to be added to the online directory or the Haldimand County Marketplace are encouraged to contact

Haldimand County’s Economic Development & Tourism Division Wins Provincial Tourism Award

Haldimand County’s Economic Development and Tourism division has won a provincial tourism award for initiatives completed in 2020 to support local businesses.

The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), in partnership with Attractions Ontario, The Culinary Tourism Alliance, Indigenous Tourism Ontario and OTEC presented the Ontario Tourism Resiliency Awards at an in-person and virtual awards gala on October 27.

Haldimand was presented with the Innovation Award in the Destination Marketing Organization category.

The award encompassed the Real. Local. strategy that was implemented to support local businesses and better position Haldimand’s tourism offerings.

Marketing projects included in the award were:

  • Development of ‘Real. Local.’ branded graphic
    • The ‘Real. Local.’ graphic is available to local business to incorporate in their marketing efforts. Since the launch, several businesses have incorporated it in print and social media advertising, as well as on packaging.
  • Local food campaign, retail & wellness campaign, Road Trip Haldimand Campaign
    • Advertising for these 3 campaigns saw a total reach of 5,200 in print, a reach of over 200,000 in social media and 6,295 clicks to learn more about the 75 business which were included in the promotions.
  • 2020 Haldimand Holiday Wish Book
    • The Holiday Wish Book campaign included 58 businesses. All businesses were featured in the online directory hosted on the Haldimand County website and 33 businesses were featured in the printed booklet. 22,498 booklets were mailed to every household in Haldimand. The social media campaign, which featured all participating businesses, reached 67,687 individuals and saw 2,615 clicks from people interested in learning more about local businesses.
  • Real. Haldimand. Marketplace
    • The Marketplace launched in late December 2020 with 24 vendors and has now grown to 43 local businesses selling products on the online e-commerce site. An extensive social media campaign saw over 3,000 clicks to view listings on the Marketplace. A local business indicated that their business traffic doubled when they were included in the Marketplace and corresponding promotional marketing campaigns.
  • Increased Digital Presence
    • A new Tourism Website and Tourism Instagram page were launched at the end of 2020 to generate further interest in Haldimand’s diverse offerings, along with an extensive social media campaign to support local businesses.

Haldimand’s Business Development and Planning Advisory Committee (BDAPAC) was instrumental in COVID-19 business recovery planning, along with staff, in the early days of the pandemic.

In June 2020, EDT received funding from Fed Dev Ontario to support tourism marketing initiatives and support the tourism sector locally.

Through the recommendation of BDAPAC, a Marketing Advisory Committee was formed and consulted, giving direction on how the funding would be used, to maximize opportunities to support and promote local businesses. Council was kept informed of the work of BDAPAC and of these marketing initiatives and have been very supportive of these efforts.

Haldimand County is honoured to be recognized for this award and appreciate the support of Council, BDAPAC and the Marketing Advisory Committee in helping achieve this success.

For more information on supports available for local business, visit

Digital Service Squad returning to Haldimand County to help small businesses with eCommerce, pandemic recovery

Haldimand County, in partnership with Grand Erie Business Centre, is pleased to announce the receipt of an additional $57,000 grant from Digital Main Street’s Ontario Grants Program.

The grant provides funding to hire a Digital Service Squad (DSS), who will help local small businesses adopt online technologies and digitally transform their sales, marketing and back-office operations.

A Digital Service Squad was brought on from September 2020 to June 2021 and was instrumental in helping local business owners increase their online presence and apply for the Digital Transformation Grant. With support from the DSS, 82 businesses received the Digital Transformation Grant, totaling $205,000.

Renewed funding of $12.37 million for the Digital Main Street’s Ontario Grants Program (OGP) from Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) includes $3 million for the Digital Service Squad program and $7.5 million to provide 3,000 Digital Transformation Grants to qualified brick-and-mortar small businesses. The OGP is administrated by the Ontario BIA Association (OBIA), in partnership with the Toronto Association of BIAs (TABIA).

The new squad members will begin to visit businesses in September 2021. Interested businesses can contact Haldimand County by emailing:


“Ontario small businesses are the heart of our neighbourhoods and the economic foundation of our communities. Our government is committed to being there for them as they reopen. This additional support will give these businesses the digital boost they need to raise their profile and rebuild better than ever.” – Nina Tangri, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.

“In the past 17 months, as small businesses across the province fought to stay open and keep customers engaged online, Digital Service Squads were there to help. Squads jumped online themselves during lockdowns to help virtually, and businesses have consistently told us how important the DSS were to their success through the pandemic. We are thrilled to support the Haldimand County DSS and help them provide assistance to more small businesses than ever.” – Kay Matthews, Executive Director of OBIA.

“Having to evolve and utilize all of the online tools have been wonderful, as has the assistance of the Digital Transformation Grant and the support from the Digital Service Squad… I think you get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and it’s just one more thing you have to add to your list so [the grant & DSS] gave us the push we needed to go ahead and get it done properly.” – Tricia Nolan, Luxe & Company, Jarvis, ON

“Local businesses are important to the fabric of our communities. COVID-19 has caused significant challenges and hardships for many small businesses. Haldimand County and Grand Erie Business Centre are thankful for this grant that will allow us to continue to assist our businesses in increasing their online digital presence.” – Lidy Romanuk, Manager, Economic Development and Tourism (Haldimand County)

ABOUT Haldimand County

Haldimand County logo. A yellow sun rising or setting atop green and blue waves. Haldimand County in black lettering below.

Haldimand County is a single-tier municipality established in 2001. Located within Ontario’s most populous region the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Haldimand County gives you the time and the space to connect in ways you can’t anywhere else. Effortlessly blending natural landscapes, farms and small-town charm with emerging suburban development and nearby cities, Haldimand is community of communities. At close to 1,300 square kilometers the space that separates us is also what we share; room to grow and the support that turns potential into something more. Haldimand has a population of approximately 46,000 residents (2016 census). The County is home to several charming small towns and hamlets, each with unique attractions, quaint shops, and fascinating cultural and historic sites. The Grand River’s history, cultural value and uniqueness are recognized with its designation as a Canadian Heritage River and Lake Erie’s beautiful shoreline provide both a laid-back lifestyle and perfect environment for water activities of all types. With our extensive history in farming, agriculture along with manufacturing and tourism remain our top three sectors.

ABOUT Grand Erie Business Centre

Grand Erie Business Centre logo. A pyramid with a cutout of a maple leaf sits above the words Grand Erie, stacked above the words Business Centre.

Grand Erie Business Centre (GEBC) is a private non-profit business development corporation that has been serving Haldimand County and the Township of West Lincoln since 1989. We provide financing, consultation, support and advice to small businesses within this area.

GEBC is one of 269 Community Futures Development Corporations across the country. Community Futures is a not-for-profit corporation with a volunteer Board of Directors. Grand Erie Business Centre currently receives 100% of our operational funding from FedDev Ontario (the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario).

Our mandate is to partner with local businesses and organizations in Haldimand County and the Township of West Lincoln to facilitate community economic growth. We measure our success by the number of jobs that are created and maintained through the businesses and projects that we support. GEBC is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of successful businesspeople and professionals from throughout Haldimand County and the Township of West Lincoln.

ABOUT Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA)

Ontario Business Improvement Area Association logo. OBIAA in blue and black lettering, followed by the TM symbol.

OBIAA is the network that represents unique and vibrant BIAs across Ontario. The Association supports and advocates on behalf of its members through the building and nurturing of strong relationships and partnerships. OBIAA is a leader in the development and sharing of information, tools, resources and best practices, and is the ONE voice on common issues.

ABOUT Digital Main Street

Digital Main St. logo. Black background with Digital Main St. written in orange and turquoise lettering.

Digital Main Street is a program that helps main street businesses achieve digital transformation. The program is built around an online learning platform, structured training programs, and our Digital Service Squad, a team of street-level team members who help main street businesses grow and manage their operations through technology.

Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association on Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, and Yellow Pages. Ongoing investment from the Government of Ontario
and FedDev Ontario has expanded the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses to go digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19.

Haldimand County Launches Outdoor Dining Campaign

With restrictions being lifted, and the summer season well underway,  Haldimand County is pleased to highlight all the amazing outdoor dining options available throughout the County via an upcoming social media campaign.

The campaign, taking place over the next several weeks, will promote the various outdoor dining options,  and can be found at This new landing page features an interactive map and highlights all the participating locations.

“The hospitality sector including restaurants have struggled throughout the pandemic . With the recent announcement of the Province moving into stage two, we believe that it is now more important than ever to remind local residents that all of their favorite dining experiences are opening up again” said Lidy Romanuk, Manager of Economic Development and Tourism.

With over 30 patios, food trucks, and outdoor windows, serving ice cream made locally, Lake Erie perch, and everything in between, there is always a new experience around the corner.

To browse the featured outdoor dining listings and explore the interactive map, visit Stay updated with new additions on our Tourism Instagram and Facebook. For additional information, or if you want to add your business to the local directory,  contact or 905-318-5932 ext. 6331.

When you are out enjoying these public spaces, please comply with current public health orders and maintain physical distancing at all times.

Haldimand County Receives AA Stable Credit Rating, Re-Affirms Financial Health

On May 13, 2021, Standard & Poor’s completed its annual update and review of Haldimand County’s financial credit rating. Based on their review and despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the County’s fiscal position, Standard and Poor’s has affirmed the County’s “AA Stable” credit rating.

Over the past years, the County’s credit rating has gone from a “low” of “A Negative” to the current “AA Stable” rating. This is very positive news and a testament to the sound financial policies and principles adopted by Council and managed by staff.

Several factors impact the credit rating of a municipal government. Standard and Poor’s Rating Service evaluates approximately 35 Canadian municipalities, 1 Territory and 9 Provinces, in addition to many international entities. Municipal ratings are based on six main categories: institutional framework; economy; financial management; budgetary performance; liquidity; and debt burden.

“Haldimand County’s financial health is an accomplishment that Council is proud of. Prudent fiscal management and investment decisions have a significant impact on the County’s ability to invest in community infrastructure and deliver quality services,” said Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt.

“Today, Haldimand County is in an excellent financial position to provide quality public services while making strategic investments in infrastructure to not only maintain, but also enhance the quality of life for residents,” he added.

To learn more about Haldimand County’s financial health, visit

Haldimand County logo. A yellow sun rising or setting atop green and blue waves. Haldimand County in black lettering below.

Haldimand County Council Approves 2021 Tax-Supported Operating Budget

On March 31, 2021, Haldimand County Council reviewed and approved the 2021 Tax Supported Operating Budget. The budget results in a total levy requirement of $72,553,300, which equates to a residential tax impact of about 1.96%, or about $5.35 per month for an average residential property owner with an assessed value of approximately $279,000.

Generally, the annual Tax Supported Operating Budget pays for day to day operations of the County, including salaries, wages, utilities, insurance and services such as running arenas/programming, maintaining locals parks and cemeteries, providing emergency services (fire, police and ambulance), the collection of garbage and related activities.

“The 2021 Tax-Supported Operating Budget represents a financially sustainable, responsive plan that ensures the continued delivery of essential services our communities value,” said Haldimand County Chief Administrative Officer Craig Manley. “Despite significant financial challenges related to COVID-19 and other unforeseen circumstances, staff have developed an operating budget that comes in below Council’s targeted tax rate increase of 2% or less,” Manley added.

Manley noted that Provincial funding received to date combined with significant cost-containment measures undertaken in 2020 (e.g. limiting hiring and effectuating mandatory leaves for some staff during Provincial lockdowns) have helped alleviate the tax burden.

The 2021 Tax-Supported Operating Budget highlights several investments in municipal service delivery, including:

  • organizational and staffing initiatives to enhance customer service and communications
  • proceeding with internal, technology-focused projects that will improve access to public-facing services, increase efficiencies and strengthen cybersecurity
  • hiring additional building & by-law staff to facilitate enforcement and ensure the continuation of timely permit approvals
  • hiring additional staff to address growth-related needs associated with winter control and environmental operations
  • providing temporary project management resources to expedite major Corporate priority initiatives (e.g. Broadband Internet Project, Caledonia Fire Hall, Norfolk County/Six Nations water supply initiative).

“This was an extremely difficult budget to develop under ever-changing pressures and circumstances. Staff have worked hard to bring forward a reasonable, fiscally responsible budget that addresses community needs and upholds the levels of service our residents have come to expect,” noted Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt.

On average, a residential property owner can expect their annual property taxes to be allocated as follows:

More information on County budgets and budget processes is available on the County website via

Real. Local. Marketing Toolkit Available to Local Businesses

Haldimand County’s Economic Development and Tourism division is excited to announce the launch of its Real. Local. Small Business Marketing Toolkit. Available for free at, the kits include Real. Local. branded assets that businesses can use in their marketing efforts.

This announcement follows the recent launch of the Tourism Haldimand website and Real Haldimand Marketplace, both found at, which provide cost free supports to assist tourism businesses in Haldimand to market to their key audiences.

Utilizing the kits, businesses can add a Real. Local. decal in their storefronts, add branded stickers to products made in Haldimand and customize signage or flyers to highlight local products and services.

The free marketing toolkits include: Proud to Be a Local Business posters, customizable local product poster templates, social media profile and post templates, “Proud Local” window decals, “Real. Local.” branded stickers and the “Real. Local.” graphic element for business use.

Haldimand County continues to support businesses through the Real. Local. campaign as seen in the Real Taste of Haldimand restaurant feature in February and Holiday Wish Book in December 2020 – both aimed at increasing awareness of the retail, restaurants and services that can only be found in Haldimand County.  The toolkit furthers the impact of these efforts and will allow businesses to proudly share what local means to them.

The creation of the marketing toolkit was funded through the support of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

“We want our businesses to feel connected to other entrepreneurs in the County, and elevate their messages using coordinated tools as a way to share their stories, products and what makes them truly local and unique to Haldimand,” said Lidy Romanuk, manager of the Economic Development and Tourism division. She added, “This toolkit is a great addition for businesses experienced in marketing, but is also an easy first step for businesses who are trying to establish their brand but aren’t sure where to get started.”

The digital elements of the Marketing Toolkit are now available for download at Physical elements including stickers, posters and window decals are available via online request form. Instructions and recommendations as to how businesses can best use the assets are also available.

Business owners are encouraged to contact Economic Development and Tourism Division staff for further suggestions on how to implement the toolkit by contacting 905-318-5932 ext. 6331 or

Haldimand County Now Accepting Applications For Seasonal Sidewalk & On-Street Patio Program

Haldimand County is proud to announce the return of its Seasonal Sidewalk and On-Street Patio Program. Applications are now being accepted for patios on both public and private property. Due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions Haldimand County has extended the patio season for both public and private patios from March 15, 2021 until January 1st 2022 to allow for more outdoor dining as weather permits.

Extending the patio season has a direct benefit for restaurants, cafes, breweries and other food establishments as it will allow establishments to host additional patrons while maintaining social distancing requirements. Food and drink establishments have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020 with restrictions significantly reducing seating capacity in these establishments. Extending the 2021 patio season will support businesses in allowing them to serve additional customers outside of what may be acceptable indoors throughout 2021.

“The effects of COVID-19 have impacted businesses significantly, especially in the restaurant and service sector,” said Lidy Romanuk, Manager of Haldimand County’s Economic Development and Tourism division. “Haldimand County continues to support businesses by removing as many barriers as we can at this time. Simultaneously, our hope is to come up with more creative solutions that encourage residents to support local businesses”.

In addition to the Seasonal Sidewalk and On-Street Patio program on public property, Haldimand County will also be extending the temporary private patio program that was established in 2020 to support the restaurant sector through COVID-19 restrictions. This program permits establishments to open a temporary seasonal patio on private property without proceeding through the planning approval process.

Businesses wishing to apply for a Seasonal Sidewalk and On-Street Patio permit must complete an application. More information and the application form can be downloaded at Business owners are also encouraged to contact Economic Development and Tourism Division (EDT) staff to review their patio concept and application prior to submission. The EDT team can be reached at 905-318-5932 or


Haldimand County logo. A yellow sun rising or setting atop green and blue waves. Haldimand County in black lettering below.

Haldimand Tourism Businesses Given Opportunity To Hone Filmmaking Skills

Haldimand County’s Economic Development and Tourism division is hosting a virtual videography workshop series for local tourism businesses.

From Intuition to Execution: Telling your Business Story in Video is funded by the Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation and through the support of Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). This workshop series will develop tourism operators skills to plan, capture and edit great video stories that they shoot on their smart phone. At the end of the series participants will walk away with a final video ready to be used to promote their tourism business, when safe to do so.

The workshop series is being offered FREE to qualifying businesses and will consist of three group webinars, the first taking place February 17, from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m., as well as one-on-one virtual instruction by workshop leader Graeme Bachiu, an award winning local filmmaker from Windecker Road Films.

“Having great video content can help businesses attract new visitors and increase their organic reach on social media,” said Lidy Romanuk, Manager of Economic Development and Tourism.  “Great video content will enhance business exposure but also assists in promoting Haldimand County as a tourist destination in the future.”

Capacity is limited, and the program is reserved for tourism businesses physically located in Haldimand County. Register by visiting