Looking to New Opportunities to Restore its Vibrant Past
Located in Southwestern Ontario, the municipality of West Elgin encompasses the two main centres of Rodney and West Lorne, and the smaller communities of Churchville, Clachan, Crinan, Eagle, Kintyre, New Glasgow, Port Glasgow and Twin Valleys. Unlike some small towns in Ontario, West Elgin enjoys a diverse population with several generations of German, Portuguese, Dutch, Romanian and Lithuanian living in the area. Recently, Spanish-speaking newcomers from Columbia and Central America have joined the mix, integrating smoothly yet sharing their charming culture, as others have before them.
Land Area, km2
Manufacturing, Construction, Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting
St. Thomas, London
Parts of the municipality are close to Highway 401 – only a 45 minute drive to the cities of St. Thomas or London and even closer some newly big box retail stores that have been established along the highway. While this proximity brings many advantages such as big city shopping and other conveniences to West Elgin, it also means a lack of retail demand locally and city commuters competing for local area jobs. While large auto manufactures have long since left the area, auto parts and flooring manufacturing are providing steady, albeit lower paying jobs. As the agricultural interests of younger generations dwindle, family farms are being acquired by large mechanized farms, requiring less staff and higher-skilled management positions. Home-based retail businesses have sprung up recently, especially along any of the major tourism routes such as Highway 3 which serves Niagara Falls to Windsor.
As with many rural communities across Canada, West Elgin faces challenges with their aging population, youth migration, health care services and transportation. Many of the youth that graduate from West Lorne High School move to St. Thomas or London for further education and/or employment opportunities.
Few return to raise their families in that familiar close-knit small town environment, but many don’t come back. The economic decline of the past few decades has had a toll on individuals who used to earn family sustaining wages which have had to adjust to lower wage jobs.
West Elgin is exploring opportunities for increased manufacturing in the area with existing and new employers, as well as the creation of a large seniors’ complex in Port Glasgow overlooking Lake Erie. The village of West Lorne has also been experiencing development such as the recently built new Community Health Centre, and The Arts & Cookery Bank, a cultural experience actively promoting the heritage of the area. West Elgin’s future is secured through its geographical closeness to the cities of St. Thomas and London, and its progressive eye to future economic opportunities. And with some families moving back into the area, the hope is that existing and new energy can help it to return to its vibrant past.