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Additional Thoughts – Monday June 25th, 2007

July 26, 2008

I was quite taken by the response I got from last weeks column. People with whom I spoke to are rather passionate about this issue. As I was quite upset when I wrote that post so I feel obligated to expand upon my ideas.


The commentators had some very good ideas and as I would like to be part of the solution rather than just complaining I propose the following.


As stated by the 2nd commentator I too feel we are at a crossroads. We can gain victory as we did at Normandy or sink into quagmire similar to Anzio. To gain victory something must change. We have off location outlets which sell Niagara wine in our Appellation, but we cannot sell ours. This is definitely wrong. The liscence holder for the outlet in Kingsvile is closing the outlet. Well why couldn't it sell our wine? Wouldn't that be a novel idea.


But I feel that we could obtain a victory here. I feel this for 3 basic reasons: 1) good product which will gain converts, 2) several wineries are owned by powerful wealthy people who know the right people and 3) a strong but arrogant and incompetent enemy (the provincial government).


To help solve the problem I have proposed Appellation Wine Stores. This runs contrary to any and all government policy, but this I believe is the ideal which we should strive toward. These could be expanded to include local artisinal product and roughly follow the model of “Whole Food Markets” in the US.


This though, I believe will always be a nonstarter. The government relies upon the massive earnings from the 'proper' lcbo outlets and will pull out the tried and true Nafta card and most people will shudder since those ugly Americans only want to ruin us and steal all of our lumber. I personally think that the Americans could care less. A few stores in Appellations will not cause a massive retaliation Those evil Mondavi people may actually like it as they tend to want to locate in name regions so if another name area was found they would definitely profit from it.


As such I have a plan 2. This could be done tomorrow in the present locations and I believe the Nafta straw man could be nullified. Simply, an area of the store could be “leased” to the Vintner's Association who would stock and maintain the area. This is a model used in many retail operations already so is nothing new. There would be union issues but as they would do less work I think this would be agreeable. The wine could then be sold in a co-operative manner allowing all wineries to actually make a profit and get exposure. Again this should only apply to in Appellation stores. Since I am represented by the Minister of Economic Development and the east side has the Minister of Energy, they should be able to push this thru, especially since we are in a current economic crisis and can use all the help we can get. Again this is an immediate single step of my plan, but an important one and the one that may allow us to break out of the beach head.


My second strategy is more long term. Sun Tzu spoke of the need to have both long a short term objectives. We can inject capital thru the “Lease” areas and then build a base for long term stability. This base would be built through a multifaceted marketing plan made here and not in Toronto, which addresses our needs, strengths and desires not a mini Toronto or worse, treating us as ignorant provincials. I feel this marketing should not target Toronto, but Ohio and SE Lower Michigan. They are our natural market. I am always amazed on how many people from Ohio I meet at the wineries. They like it here so maybe they should be who we market to.


Again Master Sun spoke of finding out what is important to your enemy and seize it. If water is in short supply, take the well. If the enemy is on a river or lake taking his well will do little good. Let me turn this on its head. Find out what you clients needs are and solve the issues that prevent them from consuming your product or service.


This is where a local marketing/tourism strategy must be developed. The Americans have boats, we do have marinas but they will need shelter and car rental. Thus part of the plan could simply be to provide packages where the client would be able to dock his/her boat in a slip, have a rental car waiting, a B&B reserved and a tour package layed out. Make it so they have no excuses not to come. This though will have to be spearheaded by the vintner's association as I fear that the Visitor and Convention Bureau is set up by and for the casino so we are on our own. Thats ok since we would have ultimate freedom of operation. The concept of “this isn't my job” will/must be purged from their thinking and the goal is to find solutions. The province could care less about us so its time to roll up our sleeves and get on with it.


Add to this car trips done in the same manner. We have the local tourism talent to make it go and we may actually get some funding…that is after we get it going.


Take this one step further and we get into APP's comments regarding Collingwood. The resorts could come in time as we have a beautiful coastline, nice people, great history, and golf courses.


There are other tourism ideas which I feel could dovetail and help the wineries and us overall. We need to take advantage of our history. This area was a hotbed of organized crime during prohibition, and with the success of the Sopranos we could relish in our sordid history. The mob island that can be seen from View Pointe and Spucewood to all the Rum Running sites which would make a great Al Capone getaway weekend…add some wineries et voila.


A second easy one would be promoting our golf courses who seem to have wineries near them…if dad wants a round or two mom can shop in Amherstberg or Kingsville then off to a few wineries with stories of how nice it is here.


Then one which I just can't believe we don't rejoice in. We were a major terminus for the Underground Railway. The churches in Sandwich and Amherstberg and Assumption btw should be on a tour which will bring people here and guess what….they are near the wineries too. In as much we should work to re-establish the Emancipation Day Festival. Not only was it a must when I was growing up, it is a day which we should all be proud of. We celebrate many things but this was 'doing the right thing' and we should and must celebrate this. This is a huge tourism and branding opportunity which we are missing.


Above all, our future rests in our hands, not Toronto's. We need and must have a made in Lake Erie North Shore solution. We have the talent here, we do not need Toronto. I feel we should target the Americans who, are wealthy, drink wine, are close and within 4 hrs are more Americans than Ontarians in all of Ontario. We are in this fight by ourselves and shouldn't expect anyone else to help us.

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