An Interview with local real estate investor and developer, Armour Development, on Building Better Communities
Is there a better way to build community?
One real estate development company seems to think so.
Armour Development has established a real estate model that harnesses local partnering and investing in North Dundas.
Nation Valley News recently interviewed Sarah Meharg to learn more about Armour’s newest community investment, The North Dundas Business Centre located at 457 Main St. Winchester. Having played an instrumental role in the recent 300 jobs announced in Chesterville , the NDBC seems a well-timed contribution toward even more local job announcements.
The “NDBC” is a co-working space supporting growth and expansion of small and mid-sized businesses. The offices, boardrooms and open space can be rented by the hour/day/week/month/year.
The NDBC also doubles as a startup incubator and accelerator that helps launch new companies and ideally creates local jobs and builds our economy.
Ever since we moved to Chesterville local residents would approach and regale us on how successful and vibrant the town used to be. The Nestle plant had recently closed down and it was evident that there was a sincere interest to resurrect the good old days, when storefronts were tenanted, the plant employed hundreds and there was a fuller pride of place.
Growing up in a pile of blueprints, surrounded by my Father’s engineers and architects, you might say I began life with a unique understanding of communities in transition. Aspiring one day to follow in my Dad’s footsteps, my career path would have me become a Global disaster and post conflict reconstruction expert. Uniquely qualifying me to support communities transition toward future and ongoing prosperity and success.
My goal as 2nd generation President is to duplicate the same investment and development success my father, Douglas Meharg, employed, only my interest is in small towns across Ontario, starting with our Township of North Dundas.
Armour pioneered real estate and community economic development in Markham, creating a smart and prosperous community. Doug Meharg connected his projects like the Markham Fair Grounds, the Markham Heritage Museum, the Markham-Stouffville Hospital, commercial malls, hundreds of homes, and apartments and condos with the local citizens, professionals, service clubs, and private sector investors. The town has grown into an exciting place to live and work.
NVN: What is your goal for the North Dundas Business Centre at 457 Main Street, Winchester?
Armour: We want to provide a central location where people in our community, perhaps working from home on their enterprise, are expanding their business or starting a new one, might benefit from being surrounded with like-minded success driven professionals and entrepreneurs in a cost-effective and supportive environment.
With regards to the incubator and accelerator, ideally we can connect North Dundas to the Startup Canada eco-system and launch a rural town charter.
We ourselves have benefited and profited from our real estate and technology startups over the years. More and more Canadians are interested in higher investment returns and receiving passive income streams. The best approach in our view is proptech where real estate and technology meet. We’re currently looking for local investor partners to collaborate on local tech start-ups and real estate investment projects.
NVN: Do you think local residents who could afford to invest would do so locally in North Dundas?
Armour: I would certainly hope so. We ourselves do! We moved to the area 10 years ago with the intention to start and raise a family.
We found many profitable opportunities to capitalize on, and every opportunity is intended to contribute to the area and make it a better place to live.
Historically, local families collaboratively invested locally. That’s what built these towns originally. Masons, Oddfellows, Church congregations, and ethnic groups partnered money into investments with good financial returns and new passive income streams. Local community investors generated increased wealth, improving their quality of life, and confidence to invest more, locally. For whatever reason, this stopped across most communities in Ontario at about the same time. The result? A stand-still in local investing triggers economic decline and decay.
To address some of the localized issues of declining economies, community funds promoted by government became non-profit or not-for-profit like in North Grenville. Sure they do good work, however they rely on funds donated by families and businesses to contribute to a government-designed welfare model. Unlike government, private donors have to work hard for their money. As they give, they themselves lose financial ground. So it’s not sustainable, healthy, or equitable.
Perhaps we need a broader public community discussion on how we can shape our future best using our local resources and in a more sustainable, equitable and profitable way. If we want our small and rural towns to flourish again.
One example not fully realized is self-directed RRSP real estate investing. People have little idea where their bank RRSPs are invested. Banks are offering 2-3% interest on RRSP returns, not calculating massive losses every market correction.
North Dundas residents likely have approximately $30-60 million in RRSPs. These are funds that can be directly invested into protected & on title, local real estate investments offering 8-12% returns.
People understand that 12% return on investment is better than 2% returns. Thousands of Ontarians are now RRSP invested in Ontario real estate markets, but seldom locally, where there is a triple net benefit on their investment dollars.
Time will tell if the area’s affluent families will embrace a local community improvement investment fund, as one of our NDBC community development projects.
Armour Development is currently seeking local co-founders and will be establishing and growing the Fund as one of our NDBC community improvement projects.
Perhaps we can update you on our progress. Hopefully you start to see positive and profitable community development projects flourish.
NVN: Why should affluent investors decide the future of North Dundas? Is that not the job of the township who represents all constituents?
Armour: Good question!
Active participant individuals or families in community programming, typically volunteer in democratic process and are usually the voice and energy that shapes and changes community.
The same holds true for private investors as it does for town’s and municipal leadership. Government funding models now increasingly seek matching dollars from private money. No private money, no government money. Only, our fund will never donate investor money. We would always seek a return on investment, again we hope to create wealth and success, not support a welfare model proven to fail in so many ways.
For Armour’s part, we held public consultations, named “Chesterville 20/20”, where we sought feedback from the community.
The focus was how to retrofit a small town with a group of like-minded individuals with a diverse set of skills and interests. We have expanded all planning and action projects in our consultations to benefit all of North Dundas, as we are uniquely a community of small communities.
Our process for community development has foundations in a lifetime of experience.
Our early focus is on Quick Impact Projects (QIPs). These are the projects that drive big results quickest and are executable. The NDBC, community investment fund, and the rejuvenating of the former Nestle Plant were all outcomes and targets of the Chesterville consultations. We chose to begin with the Plant as this project mattered most to the community who had a lot of history invested, and hopes for future job creation. The recent announcement of 300 jobs at the newly invested Plant is a great example of our entire community coming together for a great cause.
The NDBC where we sit today for this interview, was also a job creation project inspired through our Chesterville 20/20 community consultations.
We needed a centralized commercial location to launch the Fund, host community events, seminars and investor presentations. This property will be available to everyone to foster community economic development and prosperity. It goes beyond North Dundas. Our aim is to franchise our projects to benefit other small Ontario towns. Each project has the potential to become a profitable startup business.
We’re establishing a strong local community real estate investment ecosystem and knowledge base with facebook pages and groups such as the North Dundas Business Centre, Startups and Investing Locally.
We would certainly benefit from having B2B services in the building, such as graphic artists, web designers, social media marketers, bookkeepers, accountants, and more, in-house at the NDBC. North Dundas should be a place where people live as well as work. We don’t have to be another bedroom community.
We truly hope to meet other community members at the NDBC. Either people looking to grow or start a business, work in a professional office space rather than only at home – either permanently or occasionally -, startups seeking wealth and adventure or most importantly, community investors.
We have an opportunity to build on the legacy inherited from the families, churches, and service clubs that built the foundation of our towns, and inspire communities to take advantage of their own futures.
This is the primary take away I learned from my dad’s projects while he helped pioneer and shape Markham: invest in the market and community you know best, and you will see the greatest results every day.
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