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Business leaders get behind Waterloo Region's plan to buy up Wilmot farm land


A group of business leaders are weighing in on the Region of Waterloo’s controversial proposal to buy farm land in Wilmot Township – and they’re in favour of the plan.

The Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region, also known as BESTWR, shared an open letter Friday endorsing the region’s efforts to consolidate 770 acres of land between Nafziger Road, Bleams Road and Wilmot Centre Road.

The proposal has, so far, been met with fierce opposition from property owners and other concerned residents.

One farmer told CTV News about the region’s “lowball” offer.

“There’s no way I can buy any other farm land in this area for the money that they offered me,” Arjo Van Bergeijk said Thursday.

No details have been released about possible plans for the property but the regional chair responded to concerns in an email to EcoBoosters earlier this week. In it, Karen Redman said having available land is critical to securing future investment and jobs that support community growth.

“Since 2021, Waterloo Region has received numerous inquiries seeking large-scale parcels for development, speaking directly to the urgent need for this type of land,” she wrote.

BESTWR echoed Redman’s position, citing the 2011 closure of the Maple Leaf Foods plant in Kitchener in order to build a nearly $400 million facility in Hamilton.

“In the not too distant past, we lost Maple Leaf Foods and our Schneider’s plant to another community because we were not ready,” BESTWR chair Ian McLean told CTV News. “We weren’t coordinated and organized to have a large scale site that we were all pulling for. That was one of the first signs that we need to be better coordinated, that we need to be speaking from the same song sheet. With every passing day we discovered that we don’t have enough shovel-ready, larger sites so that we can compete for those global investments. We are talking about, for a large piece of property, a billion dollar plus investment and thousands of jobs.”

The BESTWR letter was signed by the heads of Explore Waterloo Region, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Communitech and the Waterloo Region Development Corporation.

- With reporting by Colton Wiens, Stefanie Davis and Tegan Versolatto Top Stories

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