Reaching the end of the road

The municipality of Dutton Dunwich continues to support its local businesses, despite increasing infrastructure expenses

By Kaitlynn Anderson
Staff Writer
Better Farming

Cameron McWilliam runs a cash crop, beef and turkey operation with his wife, Anne Marie, in Elgin County.

He also serves as mayor of Dutton Dunwich, a rural municipality in southwestern Ontario.

Through both of these roles, McWilliam is familiar with the importance of rural infrastructure.

In Dutton Dunwich, many businesses rely on local roads and bridges to ship and receive goods. Consumers also use these roads to travel to locations to purchase goods and services.

However, this municipality faces a unique challenge, as Highway 401 splits it in half, McWilliam said.

“So, we have to make sure that our infrastructure is in good shape to be able to help (our) businesses grow,” he said.

This infrastructure must be safe for heavy equipment, too.

“Certainly, with farmers using machinery and hauling grain and livestock, we need to make sure that our roads and bridges are safe and up to date,” he said. “Farming operations (are growing) and we have to accommodate that.”

In addition, as some urban residents relocate to rural areas, these communities need to have the infrastructure to support this growth.

Autumn Road
    Spinkle/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

Unfortunately, many small governments cannot access sufficient revenue to maintain and upgrade their roads and bridges.

In fact, Dutton Dunwich received less money from the provincial government this year than last year to fund infrastructure projects.

“We have to make up for that loss through our tax base, which is a huge challenge,” McWilliam said.

Adding even more hurdles for these communities to overcome, the government “continues to download more costs on the municipalities.”

Despite these challenges, Dutton Dunwich and other municipalities in Elgin County are committed to helping local businesses thrive.

The County opened three business resource centres – including one in Dutton – to help companies promote themselves and create business plans.

By providing this support, companies will have greater opportunities to succeed once roads and bridges are updated.

“If we’re improving our infrastructure, we want to make sure the pieces are in place to attract and retain businesses,” McWilliam said. “You have to make that investment. If you don’t build it, they’re not going to come.” BF

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