Hillier pinot noir grapesI came to Prince Edward County under the spell and dream of pinot noir. In my last blog I spoke of the power of working with inherent strengths and assets as an economic driver under the theme of maple. My second major initiative was to attract vineyard and winery investment. The momentum had started prior to my arrival but we had our work cut out for us as once again there were way more doubters than believers.

While maple has done a lot, wine has changed the face and fortunes of Prince Edward County. Ironically, I think the glow and glamour of wine has actually done more economically as an investment attraction magnet than the industry itself.

That is not to diminish the industry at all but to point out the power of iconic investment attraction magnets like wine in our case. The wine industry established here because some crazy pioneers thought why not grapes here, we are an agriculture community and grew cherries and apple trees. Plus this is a fabulous and fairly undiscovered tourism area close to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Let’s put our agriculture and tourism strengths together, align them with the growing demands of the market place and maybe we can make a go of it.

Prince Edward County’s wine boom has undergone a meteoric rise, from it’s early beginnings of having more ink, hype and press than grapes, vines or wine to now a decade later 1 million vines in the ground, 19 wineries expected to hit 30 wineries by 2011, medals, awards and accolades for the wine, the region and its potential. We produce over a million bottles of wine per year with growing sales nearing $20 million per year. The Globe and Mail has sceptically followed our story and is now suggesting that we should market ourselves as “Burgundy South”.Hillier Pinot Noir

While this is all great, here was my intuition at the time of wanting to promote and grow wine and now my learnings. Wine is Sexy. Money, investment and people want to be around sexy, sex sells and sexy sells too! While we have had incredible growth and investment in the wine industry, we have had as much and more investment in the community as a result of wine. We need to thank wine, celebrate wine, support wine and continue to leverage wine as a very sexy and successful economic driver.

People want to live in a wine region, they want to retire in a wine region, they want to open hotels, B&B, spa’s, restaurants, organic farms, art galleries, artists studios, put on theatre and music productions, they want to hold weddings, etc…. The long embarrassing list of riches list goes on and on. The bottom line is people want to invest in a wine region, beyond wine.

My personal wine dreams have since come and gone. But as Economic Development Officer for Prince Edward County we can’t thank the wine risk takers enough, thank-you for investing, thank-you for persevering, thank-you for succeeding and thank-you for attracting all that other investment hundreds of millions of dollars – $300 million and counting! Mostly thank-you for making Prince Edward County unique once again and giving our investors confidence in the area so that what we could grow once again.

We wouldn’t be the same without you and have transformed us into an opportune and prospering Creative Rural Economy that we are today.

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