By-election Candidate Questions Week 1
The Morinville News presents the first in a weekly series of questions to candidates leading up to the Sept. 20 election.
QUESTION: With a residential / business tax split of approximately 93 per cent / seven per cent, it is clear Morinville should be attracting new businesses to town to reduce the tax burden and to create jobs. What are your ideas on improving Morinville’s economic development game?
Candidate answers have been listed in the order submitted to us by our deadline
My short answer to your question is: at this time I have NO ideas on improving Morinville’s economic development game.
I have done no research to date to examine our “economic development game”, and I’m not even sure we have such a thing. If we do have one, to my mind it has not been very well articulated. Perhaps our Chamber of Commerce has one or more ideas on this subject which they would be willing to share?
At this time I am not even sure that we should be going all-out to attract new businesses. I, and many others with whom I have spoken, see Morinville as a “bedroom community”, and not as a regional business hub. While I would absolutely like to see more support for our local businesses, the key weapon we have to reduce our tax burden is to cut spending.
In November of 2010 I attended what was called a “Stakeholder Workshop” which discussed the Morinville Municipal Sustainability Plan. This session was designed to be… QUOTE: …used to initiate and guide conversations about MDP policy directions. UNQUOTE. The agenda for this was driven almost entirely by the consultancy firm hired to oversee the project, while many valid and viable comments from attendees were ignored. In other words, if it didn’t fit their concept, it was pretty much written off. The bottom line here is that we now have an MDP (Municipal Development Plan) which has been approved by the Capital Region Board; one which I am quite confident in saying that 90 per cent (or more) of our residents have not even read! (by the way, I readily confess to being among that group until yesterday).
Maybe it’s just me but I have been unable to find any reference to any real “economic development game” in our new MDP.
Should the majority of the citizens of Morinville disagree with me, let’s get together and talk about it!
Morinville Council and area residents have continued to promote business development in our community. It is evident in the new businesses that have come to town as well as community events and beautification of our downtown business core. I remember when I first moved to Morinville in 1982 when the population was around the 3,000 mark. We had few choices on where to dine out and purchase daily essentials. As the population increased so did businesses but at a slower rate. Today we are over 8,500 residents and are closing in on a city status but still lack the choices we would like to see in our community. The population of our community will determine what franchises will come to town. That said, we as a community must support the existing businesses we have while encouraging new businesses to locate into our community.
We need to continue to promote residential growth which in turn will bring more businesses. A good friend of mine served as town councillor in the rural community of Vermilion. He advised that their town’s growth was stagnant so they brought forward tax incentives for new home builders and businesses. This incentive took off with a boom to the town. If a builder was going to start construction on a home or business taxes were waived for the building period up to a year. They also brought in tax incentives for older property sites where unsightly buildings were located. Again taxes were waived for a one-year period to enable demolition and construction of new properties. I note at present that Morinville is presently providing some incentives for new development but we could provide more incentives which in turn will bring more economical spin offs in the way growth and jobs. The completion of the Cardiff interchange is a priority which will also promote business development as access to the town’s services will be more accessible and safer for passing motorists. In closing, Doug Griffiths, MLA for Battle River-Wainwright, wrote a brilliant paper which is available online on 13 ways to kill a community. This is an interesting read which if you follow the opposite 13 ways to kill a community our community will grow and prosper.
This is a difficult question to answer and one which Morinville Councils have been trying to do for many years. Our town’s close proximity to St. Albert and Edmonton is definitely one of the biggest obstacles for us. We are a small market that is only a few minutes away from much larger business opportunities for owners. It also doesn’t help that there isn’t much land or building availability in prime areas (100 St and 100 Ave) to develop new businesses.
Town Council is currently working with the province in dealing with 100 Ave and the issues of having businesses on a provincially maintained highway. This relationship needs to continue to grow and continue to be positive to help to improve Morinville’s economic development.
We as consumers also need to be willing to shop locally. ‘If you build it, they will come’ is not necessarily a guarantee in Morinville. We are a bedroom community which means many of us work outside of our town and shop on the way home in Edmonton or St. Albert. We need to remember that it’s not the grocery stores, fire departments, and pet shops in Edmonton that support our St. Jean Baptiste Festival, or the dentists, tire shops, or coffee stops in St. Albert that sponsor our children’s soccer teams. When businesses support our community, our families and our children, we in-turn should be supporting them. In so doing maybe other new potential businesses would be willing to give Morinville an opportunity to become their home if they knew they would be supported.
The bottom line is that this is a difficult issue and one which I believe we will need to be creative to solve.
If I have the privilege of being elected to Council, I’ll use my experience gained from being on the Morinville Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Edmonton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and my experience at the Capital Region Board meetings to do three things.
First, I’ll support our existing businesses. Let’s make it easy for them to grow and do business. It’s the low-hanging fruit of business development. If they grow and expand, our tax-base grows and expands. Existing business means existing opportunity.
Second, I’m going to promote the heck out of the really great things we already have to offer employers and employees, such as our education system, a great mix of medium and large businesses, as well as accessible transportation to other markets. We already offer so much to new businesses, and I plan to build on our successes in an optimistic way. That’s a business attitude.
Finally, let’s be the destination of choice for people that want to live and work in a smaller community. I plan on building upon the successes of the hard-working families that built our town. I’m proud to be born and raised here. We’re lucky to raise our families here. Our kids can meet life-long friends and housing prices are more reasonable than in the city. We can’t underestimate how important quality of life is for business owners and the people who work with them.
Economic development is a key driver for a successful community. We are growing towards tomorrow.
I believe that Morinville should start from the beginning as there has been no concrete work done to improve our present business/residential situation.
We need to start making a list of all commercial and industrial businesses (this includes home-based businesses) that are presently in Morinville. Then we need a list of all the property owners (both government and private) that have developed or non-developed land that is available.
Then we need to ask ourselves what we need in our community and what we can support (by means of land, location, and employment.)
If we need a certain type of commercial or industrial business here, however don’t have the land in Morinville for example; then we need to start thinking of expanding our industrial site; this could mean asking the County for some land.
Now that we have done our homework, we can start talking to the different companies and advising them to bring their company to Morinville, by reminding them that: they are welcome, we are open for business, and have the infrastructures available for them. Plus we need to give them some incentive to come; like tax relief and making the paperwork to build in the community a quick and easy system to follow.
Furthermore, we must not forget the commercial and industrial businesses we presently have; we must work with them and see what we can do to help them expand or build new businesses.
We also need packages available for all site finders that come to Morinville to pick up (one-stop location). This package should include all types of information; i.e. letter of welcome from the Mayor and Chamber of Commerce President, demographics, population, map, location of empty lots, and general information of our town history.
I would like to see a task force made up of community members to look into economic development. This task force should be made up of business owners, residential persons and the Chamber of Commerce. They should have a time frame to lead into the town hiring of an economic development officer so it can be an expense that can be built into our next budget.
The task force needs to find out the direction the residents want the town to go. Do they want the town to be just a bedroom community of St Albert or do they want a viable exciting town in its own right.
Next we need a plan for future businesses if they are going set up into one of our industrial parks, do we have room for them and do we have the services they need to accommodate them.
After talking to some of the new businesses I found out one of their concerns was the long wait time for permits to open for business. This resulted in them having to pay rent while waiting. Is there some way to streamline these permits to enable them to open their doors sooner?
I personally want our community to grow and attract more industries and businesses.