Project Name:  Heritage Destination Development – Blyth


While RTO4 has been engaged through various channels with Blyth for the past few years, recent events suggest an increased and concentrated effort in this heritage town destination is potentially warranted.

Blyth is best known for the Blyth Festival, a professional repertory theatre that reflects the culture and concerns of the people of southwestern Ontario and beyond.  By specializing in the production and promotion of Canadian plays and playwrights, it has given a voice to Canadian artists that has resulted in a provincially significant theatre and made Blyth a gem destination in Ontario.

New initiatives include the Blyth Arts & Cultural Initiative 14/19 Inc. (Blyth 14/19), formed in 2013 to rebuild the home of the theatre and develop the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity (CCRC). The primary goal of their work is to focus on rural Canadian arts and ingenuity by mobilizing local, regional and national support to create a cultural hub in the Village of Blyth.  The project, often compared to the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, looks to drive social and economic renewal through the arts and cultural industries.  Blyth 14/19 has raised almost $10 million to date for this purpose, including 3.3 million contribution by the Ontario Government.

At the same time, a formal working relationship has been established with Huron County, under the auspices of tourism, that has resulted in the county adopting the RTO model of prioritization of assets in the County.  Blyth is included in the short list for exploratory work in 2017 – 2020 (in addition to the other assets in Huron: the G2G Rail Trail and the village of Bayfield). In all three priority cases the County of Huron has entered significant partnership with RTO4.

Finally, of note is the private investment, worth more than $20 million, from the Sparling Family in the destination, in Cowbell Brewing.  Opening in the summer of 2017, it will include a state-of-the-art 50HL closed-loop brewhouse with indoor and outdoor seating for over 216, private dining and meeting spaces, and an outdoor entertainment venue for live music, culture, and athletic events.

The support noted above from private industry, the County, Municipality of North Huron and RTO4 lay the ground work for an exciting opportunity to investigate options and, if warranted, align and galvanize that network around its core DNA and USP. It is important to note that the commitment and alignment of the stakeholders is a pre-requisite for the introduction of product development and marketing initiatives.  There is a constant need to assess and re-assess the destination network.

The tactics described below are the next steps in achieving the laid-out vision.

2017/2018 Objectives

OBJECTIVE #1 – Build a destination network of key stakeholders and develop consensus on Destination DNA.

OBJECTIVE #2 – Investigate collaborative projects that would capitalize on the DNA.

Key Activities

  • Facilitate meetings with key partners such as the Blyth Festival, Blyth 14/19, Cowbell Brewing, Municipality of North Huron, Huron County and RTO4 in order to build partnerships and establish roles and responsibilities moving forward.

For more details on this project, please visit the 2017 RTO4 Business Plan, pages 28-29 (PDF 1.4MB).