Saturday, 24 March 2012

Real Estate Investor Shares Vision For Meaford

Real estate investor Lino Toncic was the featured speaker at a breakfast hosted by the Meaford & District Chamber of Commerce at Meaford Hall Friday morning.

Toncic shared his vision of what Meaford could become through careful, well planned development in the municipality, particularly in the downtown core.

Before sharing his vision, Toncic told the audience of 80 local business owners, council members, and residents that he wanted to address some assumptions that have been made by some in the community in recent months about his intentions for the properties he has purchased in Meaford.

“I am not a developer, I am a resident who wants to make things better,” said Toncic who is based in Oakville, but owns a cottage in Meaford, “Unless you hear me say something, do not believe it.”

Toncic said that he has heard many stories about what he intends to do with the properties he has purchased in Meaford, but he says that thus far, he has no plans, no designs, and no concrete decisions have been made with respect to those properties which include the site of the former Reed's Restaurant, the former Canadian Tire property, as well as a number of other downtown commercial properties.

While he had no designs to share with the audience, Toncic said that he does have a vision for Meaford, and he wants to move forward in an open and transparent manner by including municipal and public input into any projects that do come to fruition.

“I have a vision for Meaford, I have a vision for what Meaford could become,” offered Toncic.

He said that the municipality has some key features that are attractive when considering investing in, and drawing new projects to the community.

He expressed positive thoughts about Meaford's waterfront location, amenities such as the hospital, and the residents in general. He also identified some weaknesses that need to be overcome if Meaford is to blossom into a destination that will draw both tourists and investors.

Toncic feels that development of a quality hotel would go a long way toward moving Meaford from a nice place to stop for a day-trip, into a destination that would hold those tourists in the community longer, and ultimately to spend more of their valuable dollars at local business establishments.

He has researched plans and ideas that have been put forward in previous studies that have been conducted, and he says that many of those plans were on the right track, but perhaps were ahead of their time.

“Everyone has to benefit from this, and everyone has to contribute,” said Toncic adding that if there isn't an opportunity for the community as a whole to generate more revenue, then any potential developments will experience difficulty, “We need to create a win, win, win.”

Toncic said that the community has to be a better place than before he arrived in the municipality.

While he has no interest in bringing box stores, or major retailers like Wal Mart to Meaford, he does see Meaford following in the footsteps of communities such as Niagara on the Lake which have preserved their heritage while at the same time creating opportunities for profit and investment.

“You guys have the template, let's work with it,” said Toncic, “I believe that the best businesses are the ones that are run by the local people, because they have an understanding, they know what has to be done, and they want to get ahead. But if those roles aren't filled by the local businesses, guess what? It's the outside people will fill those roles.”

And Toncic would prefer to see local business owners, and potential entrepreneurs work together to build a community that they can all be proud of. And while that doesn't mean that some older structures won't have to come down, he assured the audience that his vision would preserve the essence and heritage of the community as much as possible.

“The focus should also contain an emphasis on economic sustainability on year-round business opportunities. You can't just live off tourism. You guys have got to be able to sustain business on a year round basis.”

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