The Town of Plympton-Wyoming, Ontario
A small Ontario town is working to diversify its economy
Plympton-Wyoming touts its many assets to lure new businesses and residents
The town of Plympton-Wyoming is located in Lambton County, Ontario, on the southernmost tip of Lake Huron. It was created in 2001, combining the Township of Plympton, originally established in 1833 on land that belonged to the Crown, and the formerly independent Village of Wyoming, which sits squarely on the Great Western Railway line between London to the east, and Sarnia, about 15 miles due west.
According to Mayor Gary Atkinson, Plympton-Wyoming is “a rather unique blend of rural and agricultural properties, small urban settlements, lakefront, and cottages.” The town has an area of about 123 square miles, and contains several smaller villages and hamlets, most notably Reece’s Corners and Camlachie, although its major population center is Wyoming. It is bisected by Lambton County Road 22, also known as the London Line, and Highway 402, which leads to the U.S. border via the Blue Water Bridge crossing in Sarnia.
Agriculture and food processing are major industries in the town. Some notable establishments include New Life Mills, a manufacturer of livestock nutrition; the Copper Flats Bison Co., a bison farm and outlet store; and Alton Farms Estate Winery. There are also several tractor dealerships, and farm equipment and feed stores. About three-quarters of Plympton-Wyoming’s farmers are associated with the Wanstead Farmers Co-operative Ltd., a 100-percent farmer-owned grain marketing and farm-input supply company.
Attracting new business
As the town’s population continues to grow, its leaders are focused on attracting more businesses into the community. “The town has been growing at a very rapid rate over the last ten years,” reports Chief Administrative Officer Adam Sobanski.
“Since 2011, we’ve grown an average of four percent a year, and over the last two years, it has increased significantly. In 2022, we added 59 residential units to our capacity and our population is currently just under 8,500. So, with its growth, the town has put itself in an excellent spot for commercial and industrial investment.”
“We have existing commercial, service, and light industrial areas in Wyoming that are ready to accept new businesses and the town council is more than willing to help bring their plans forward,” Sobanski continues.
“We also have large sections of commercial/industrial land available in the Reece’s Corner area, which is close to the provincial highway system and would be ideal for a lot of larger-scale businesses. And our Camlachie and lakeside areas have been growing rapidly; there’s a high density of residential homes in that area now. We feel that there is an opportunity for some community-based commercial businesses in that area, whether it be a gas station, a small pharmacy, or something of that nature. So, we’re looking to attract any businesses that are willing to locate in Plympton-Wyoming and become part of the community. And we’re working with the Sarnia/Lambton Economic Partnership to highlight our municipality and promote businesses to set up here to better serve our residents and the surrounding community.”
Of course, before a business does decide to set up shop in any particular location, it’s going to want to know several basic things, including the state of the local housing market; the location’s infrastructure and transportation network; the likelihood of an available workforce; and the area’s social, entertainment, and cultural environment.
Housing has room to grow
As to the first item, Sobanski says there are some pluses and some minuses: “Plympton-Wyoming has been quite successful in attracting single-family dwelling, especially near the lakefront where you tend to have larger estate lots and persons moving from their smaller properties in the Greater Toronto area. So, we are well ahead in the single-family dwelling area. One area we’re currently not meeting our targets in, but we’re looking to change that, is with more middle-of-the-road housing – townhouses and multi-family buildings.”
“We’re working with developers and, hopefully, the federal government through the CMHC’s (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) Housing Accelerator Fund to find innovative ways to entice developers to bring forth what the government calls ‘middle-missing housing.’” (The Housing Accelerator Fund provides incentive funding to local governments, encouraging initiatives aimed at increasing housing supply. It also supports the development of complete, low-carbon, and climate-resilient communities that are affordable, inclusive, equitable, and diverse.) We have applied for the Housing Accelerate Grant and are waiting for the federal government’s approval
“We also have several light industrial areas, where there are residential and mixed-use proposals in place, and we are looking at those with interest in hopes that we can help move those forward, not only through our standardized processes but also with help from the Housing Accelerator Fund,” Sobanski adds.
Another housing option that already exists in Wyoming, but one that the town is anxious to expand and improve upon, is located in its historic downtown, where street-level storefronts support residential units above. “Several years ago, the town did a Community Improvement Plan, which incentivizes those local property owners to improve their storefronts and help with the housing stock by expanding their residential offerings in those properties,” Sobanski notes.
Transportation and Infrastructure
Regarding the town’s transportation and infrastructure assets, Mayor Atkinson relates that there have been various studies completed over recent years: In 2021, a road study identified about $26 million plus in work that needs to be done over the next 10 years; in 2022, a bridge inspection identified about $6 million-plus in work that also needs to be done over the same period; a wastewater financial plan identified $17 million in needed improvements over the next 20 years; and there’s a need to invest $5 million over the next 20 years to maintain the town’s drinking water supply system.
Fortunately, the town has had the foresight to budget its needs well, while also taking advantage of provincial and federal government largesse. “As far as wastewater, I do commend our previous council,” says Atkinson. “They took advantage of provincial and federal funding to construct the existing wastewater system to sufficient capacity that will service the community into the long-term future.”
Sobanski agrees: “Previous councils have been very progressive. They’ve been willing to do what they need to do to put money aside to ensure that they can make those improvements for the future. They have a great financial plan for the drinking water and wastewater systems that have shown we will be able to make all those improvements, which a lot of municipalities couldn’t even dream of doing. So, kudos to the councilors for doing that.”
Partnerships old and new
That being said, both Atkinson and Sobanski would like to see more help forthcoming from the provincial and federal governments. “We have a lot of work to do over the next 20 years,” says Sobanski.
“I’m sure we can do it while maintaining only inflationary-type increases to our property taxes. But if we want to attract new businesses and new property owners, there needs to be renewed investment by the province and the federal government. They were key in building municipalities in the middle of the 19th century, but they have stepped back from that to let the municipalities build on their own. So, there isn’t that same partnership.”
“They still provide us funding but we don’t have access to those larger initiatives that helped grow Ontario. I understand that the province has limited resources, and so does the federal government, but they need to come together with the municipalities to go back to community building. We can do it on our own if we have to; it will just take more time,” he elaborates.
Meanwhile, Plympton-Wyoming does have other partners it works closely with. “The Lambton Economic Partnership is a huge partner,” says Sobanski.
“They’ve helped bring broadband internet into the area, as well as helped coordinate finding homes for new businesses and, most recently, trying to help us look for innovative ways to expand our commercial offerings in the Camlachie area. We also work very closely with our other local municipalities, especially the County of Lambton. They provide a lot of the social services to the municipality and they work with us to provide the needed infrastructure on county roadways and bridges. We also keep up partnerships with municipalities outside of Lambton County. We try to help each other out within reason; of course, we’re also competing, but where we can, we do share services to reduce costs.”
A place to work and play
Regarding the town’s workforce, Atkinson believes that younger workers would be interested in residing in Plympton-Wyoming, Ontario if there were more jobs available. “They grew up here,” he says. “They like the small-town atmosphere, but, sadly, a lot of them are working outside the area. Our goal is to get some commercial or industrial businesses here to keep them here.”
Finally, Plympton-Wyoming, Ontario offers a high quality of life for its current and future residents and new business owners. There are parks, fields, pools, sports courts, and golf courses; recreation and community centers; beaches and boat launches; campgrounds and RV parks; conservation lands and multi-use trails; libraries and churches; museums and historical landmarks; a new Health and Wellness Center; several public and private elementary schools; and many local restaurants, shops, and businesses in a vibrant downtown, that also hosts community events, such as a traditional Christmas in the Village, and an annual Canada Day Celebration.
“By having events like that, it builds a spirit within the community,” Atkinson says.
The work ahead
Sobanski reiterates that a main priority going forward is attracting additional businesses to town, specifically to Reece’s Corners and the Camlachie area. “I think our Reece’s Corners area is a gem for light industrial and commercial with all it has to offer,” he relays. “And we have some great opportunities for larger companies to move into that area. I think we need to promote it and service it in a manner to make it more attractive. I’d also like to find ways to encourage the commercial opportunities in the Camlachie area.”
“That’s a priority that we feel very passionate about,” says Atkinson. “We’re lacking a lot in that area and we owe it to our residents there because it has developed so quickly in the last ten years. We also need better internet availability in all of our areas, especially around our lakeshore.”
“We’re constantly working with suppliers to take over that area to assist our residents, because a lot of people still work from home, even though COVID is over. So my goal is to keep working with the companies to try to get internet coverage throughout.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHAT: A town of approximately 8,500
WHERE: On the Lake Huron shore in southwest Ontario