The value of preserving and strengthening a downtown core does not need an explanation: busy downtowns are integral to municipal and County development. Huron County’s historic downtowns are the financial, government, and social hubs of our communities. Their continued economic and social health is necessary for the region’s longevity and financial viability.

New businesses and investment are key to the continuing economic growth and development of Huron County and as such the County is committed to the economic development, beautification, and preservation of our historic downtowns. Huron County’s five main economic sectors are delivering strong continued growth:

The County is actively engaged in continuing the ongoing economic development in the historic downtowns of Clinton, Exeter, Goderich, Seaforth, and Wingham. This in turn supports local businesses, and improves the communities’ shopping areas in order to appeal to tourists and residents alike.

Historic Downtowns

Clinton: Clinton is known as the ‘Heart of Huron’ due to its central location in the county at the intersection of Highway 4 and Highway 8. The plan for the town was laid out in 1855 and named in honour of Lord Clinton. The population of the town rests at 3,114. Clinton’s historic downtown commercial and institutional buildings are excellent examples of late 19th century architecture with uniform facade design and similar building heights. In the downtown core, a small park situated in front of Clinton’s historic Carnegie library provides community green space.

Exeter: The town of Exeter is situated on Highway 4 about 50 kilometres north of London, Ontario. Exeter was founded by Irish settlers in 1832 and today has a population of 4,785 residents of diverse backgrounds. Exeter’s straight mainstreet is lined with one-, two-, and three-storey 19th century commercial buildings. The town hall belfry tower is a familiar landmark and a picturesque point of interest in the downtown business district. The workmanship in the brick building facades has stood up to the wear of years and remains an important quality to the overall quality of the architecture.

Goderich: Founded in 1827 by William ‘Tiger’ Dunlop, Goderich is the oldest settlement in Huron County. The town is located on the shore of Lake Huron where the terminus of Highway 8 meets Highway 21. The town plan was laid out in 1828 and commercial and residential development soon followed. With the arrival of the railway in 1861, Goderich’s population and economy grew steadily. The population of the town is now 7,521. Goderich is well-known for its centrally-located octagonal Court House Park. Court House Park is surrounded by eight commercial blocks that line eight major streets, creating a wheel-hub affect. This central commercial area is known as ‘the Square’. The turn of the century architecture present in these commercial blocks is considered harmonious and uniform with similar two- or three-story design and brick construction methods.

Seaforth: Located at the junction of Highway 8 and Kippen Road, the town of Seaforth (pop. 2627) is home to many splendid examples of late 19th century architecture. The town’s site was laid out in 1855. Seaforth’s main street is a provincially designated Heritage Conservation District. The historic downtown Victorian streetscape consists of tightly spaced, visually similar commercial buildings. Five two-storey commercial blocks line the straight main street. Their upper facades are notable for their decorative use of brickwork and their tall, regularly spaced windows. The towers of the Cardno Music Hall, post office, and town hall create visual highlights, giving a pleasant visual lift and flourish to the roofline.

Wingham: 2,875 residents strong, Wingham is the most northern of Huron County’s towns, its southern boundary located at the intersection of Highway 4 and Highway 86. Wingham’s mainstreet, Josephine Street, rises in elevation at a gentle slope from the southern edge of town to its northern edge. Similar to Seaforth in its commercial district layout, with the commercial blocks laid out along the straight main street, Wingham’s business section was constructed on a wide elevated portion of land in what became the centre of town. The town is situated to the south and east of the Maitland River. Water power was the deciding factor in the early settlement and economic development of the town. Wingham was incorporated as a village in 1874.  Wingham’s historic downtown streetscape consists of distinctive mid- to late-19th century architecture. The series of attached, two-storey commercial blocks are fine examples of smalltown Ontario architecture.

Viticulture & Wine Industry Study

Viticulture & Wine Industry Study

HEDM funding was utilized to commission a climatic study and assessment of Huron County for commercial grape production (i.e. Vitis vinifera: common European grapes cultivated in many varieties and the chief source of Old World wines). This assessment was conducted by Dr. Tony Shaw, an internationally renowned researcher from the Viticulture Institute of Brock University. The study verified that the topography and proximity to Lake Huron of the inland area where tender fruits have traditionally been grown in Huron County has created several mesoclimatic and microclimatic zones.

Dr. Shaw’s report goes on to say that in Niagara, the use of wind machines has allowed the industry to drastically reduce cold damage to vineyards. Effective use of wind machine technology is based on the knowledge of thermal inversion differentials at the time of a low temperature event during the spring, fall or winter months. If it can be demonstrated that the effective use of wind machines can mitigate low temperature events in Huron County, our potential for growing grapes in this region improves dramatically.

Three climatic test towers have been established to monitor thermal inversion differentials within the zone identified in the initial climatic study (Port Albert to Zurich). Initial readings from the towers are favourable; however, a period of 3 years is required in order to gather sufficient data for study. The study period will end in 2011-2012. Extensive soil testing was also conducted in 2010 that was extremely favourable and showed similar soil compositions to wine regions in the United States and parts of Europe.

Success of this project would have multi-sector benefits in agriculture, tourism and culture. Spin-off benefits of a winery industry could include development of new niche food markets, accommodations development, increases in commercial retail business and enhancement of local lifestyle attributes important for residential development.

Huron County Viticulture Investor Guide

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Artisanal Cheese Industry Study

Artisanal Cheese Industry Study

HEDM funding was utilized to commission a study and investment prospectus for the development of an artisanal cheese industry in Huron County. With a growing market demand for high-end specialty food items like artisanal cheese, combined with renewed consumer interest in local food, this project presents an opportunity to further diversify Huron County’s agri-food and tourism industries.

The province of Quebec produces innumerable cheeses, each with its own distinct characteristics and loyal market following. In Huron County, there is an abundance of dairy farms located within 2 hours of major metropolitan areas like Toronto, Hamilton, London and Windsor. These dairy herds produce a superior product with high butterfat and protein levels, perfect for rich, flavourful artisanal cheeses. .

Strategic branding will be a large aspect of making this project successful by developing a range of cheeses that suit the unique terroire of Huron County and satisfy a broad spectrum of Ontario’s ethnic and local markets. To that end, the investment prospectus details opportunities for production and marketing of 10 specialty cheeses – essentially what amounts to a new “cheese region appellation” for Huron County.

These will not be traditional commodity cheeses like cheddars, goudas, or brie. In fact, international trademark laws are making that increasingly difficult. Instead, the study recommends the development of a suite of entirely new cheese appellations, named after the communities in which they are produced.

The concept is already gaining some attention from potential cheese-makers and investors. Economic Development Services and the Huron Business Development Corporation will be working together in 2010 to connect the right investors with the right cheese makers and engage the local dairy producers.

Huron County Artisanal Cheese Investor Guide