From Grape Clusters to Economic Clusters.

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When I first heard of Closson Road, it was a pastoral rural route as it still is. The main difference between then and now is the kind of businesses that are on the road today. Years ago, this was an old school agricultural road. It was dotted with farms, cash croppers, beef and dairy operations.

But times change and fortunately for Prince Edward County and Closson Road the change is mostly good. For many reasons most of the traditional farming operations have gone away, not all of them but many of them. What’s popped up in their place is a minor miracle at least in terms of what is happening in many rural areas. Many rural areas across North American and beyond are in a long term decline. When traditional farms sell, consolidate or go out of business, the land lays fallow, the barns and buildings begin to crumble, houses are boarded up and slowly the places fall into economic decline.

This was happing in the 70’s & 80’s in Prince Edward County and on Closson Road. Then something started happening. In the late 1990’s Ontario’s Chardonnay Iconoclast Deborah Paskus, via local grape geek Geoff Heinricks ( a story for another column for sure) discovered that maybe, just maybe high quality grapes and wine could be coaxed out of the soils and climate in the region including at the cross roads of Closson and Chase. A business partnership was formed with Alliance Atlantis Investors like Seaton McLean and Michael MacMillan and others and the birth of an economic cluster had begun.

When I first heard about economic clusters they were based in places like Detroit and Silicon Valley that had an industrial or technology based economy. The Closson Road cluster was different, interestingly enough spawned by grape clusters. In a mere 15 years, which really is the blink of an eye for clusters to form, Closson Road has gone from a traditional, commodity based agricultural road to a value added agri-tourism “Golden Mile”. Today there are many wineries and vineyards, many of whom host entertainment events and serve delicious fare, there is a lavender farm an alpaca farm, an art gallery, B&B’s, a new brewery, a rugged outdoor tractor exhibit and more. At last count there was over 24 things to see and do under 7 separate themes. The neighbours on Closson Road are talking about 3, 4 maybe 5 or more new businesses opening up shop over the next several years. Which truly is amazing

Closson Road, as of Friday September 11, 2015, announced that it was a destination within a destination. Kind of like a neighbourhood with areas of interest, only linear, longer and more spread out – country style.

The thinking about clusters is that once they hit critical mass they begin to build on their own momentum and continue to grow organically – regardless of agricultural practices (ha,ha). Now more people will come to visit the facilities, events and activities that take place on Closson Road, businesses will become more viable and successful. With greater demand will come greater supply and other new business will pop up. I don’t believe the scale and scope will ever become out of control and therefore this is good growth, creating jobs and spin off for both the road and the region.

Almost in the blink of an eye a new sub economic ecosystem was born. If nothing else it is simple fascinating. More than that there is a new social and economic vibrancy unfolding on Closson Road in Prince Edward County. Which is something to be excited about.

Be sure to visit Prince Edward County and ClossonRoad.Com



I specialize in helping companies and organizations achieve double digit growth through impactful marketing. I work with companies throughout their life cycle – from start ups, to expansions to exit strategies and sale of the company.

I help economic development and tourism based organizations with their marketing. I also provide support to those agencies to assist their clients. I am available to speak on these topics too. I offer FREE 60 minute strategy sessions to get  people started. For more information e-mail me or give me a call today.


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