By Daniel R. Pearce, Simcoe Reformer
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 10:13 AM EST
The Port Dover Marina is one of the best run and most profitable in Ontario according to consultant Ed Leeman. Council heard on Feb. 21 if the county invests in upgrades to the marina it will add more revenue.
Port Dover’s municipally-owned marina is one of the best run and most profitable in the province and has potential to do even better with some upgrades, council was told last night.
Ed Leeman, a consultant brought in to study the operation, suggested the marina be expanded, its amenities be improved, and the surrounding area be turned into a park-like setting.
The 450-slip site could see a mixed use and “be integrated into a waterfront park” that would include a sailing school and community events, said Leeman.
The concept of boaters and members of the public using the same site has worked at a marina in Kingston, said Leeman, who lives in that city.
“It can be done.”
The county took over the marina from the federal government a few years ago and since then it has returned a profit to the county of $200,000 to $335,000 a year.
Leeman called the operation “excellent” and said “it is one of the most efficient operations I’ve encountered in the 45 years I’ve been in the business.”
It is also “the most profitable marine operation I’ve seen by far,” he added.
Investing in upgrades will add more revenue, he said. The number of slips available in Ontario is shrinking every year while the number of boats is growing, he noted.
Municipally-run marinas, Leeman said, are “ideally suited” to invest in upgrades because they can afford the 10-15 year payback period.
More than half the people who use the marina drive at last half an hour from out of town to get there and in effect become tourists, spending money on gas and food and in shops, he said.
“It is the equivalent in dollars of having a 100-room hotel in downtown Port Dover on that spot,” Leeman said.
An improved marina, he added, will help with economic development in other ways.
“People will buy houses here simply to see the boats come and leave the harbour.”
Mayor Dennis Travale agreed with Leeman.
“This is a profit centre, so we should do everything we can to expand that profit,” Travale said, noting the county owns land around the marina that is undeveloped. “Why not have a growth plan?”
Kevin Lichach, Norfolk’s general manager of community services, said a business plan can be developed once council decides on a “governance structure” for the marina.
Lichach suggested the county run the marina with an advisory board in the background.
But a group of citizens wants Norfolk to consider a management style board and would like to try to sell the idea to council, noted Port Dover Coun. John Wells, who called for a “full debate” on the issue.
Council agreed to defer the issue so the group can make a deputation to council next week.
Daniel R. Pearce
519-426-3528 ext. 132