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QUESTION ADDRESSED TO MORINVILLE COUNCIL AND MAYORAL CANDIDATES
With a residential / commercial tax split of approximately 93 per cent to seven per cent, the need to redress the balance has been raised by several candidates. Given that Morinville is uniquely challenged by its close proximity to not one but two major shopping centres, what are your plans or ideas for economic development? Do they include the procurement of an economic development officer for Morinville or do you plan to continue the mistaken assumption that the local Chamber will fulfil that role for the town.
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Good afternoon There is no doubt a 90/10 residential/non-residential tax split is unsustainable in the long term. As part of our 2010 budget the Town Council allocated monies to fund the creation of an economic development strategy. There are numerous paths this study could take us. For example. During the community consultations it may be discovered the majority of residents want to remain a bedroom community. If that is the case, our strategy to be a sustainable bedroom community will be different than if we prefer to become a community where we live and work. The person that will be hired to implement the strategy will need different experiences, contacts and skill sets depending on the direction the community wishes to go. As your Mayor this strategy will not sit on a shelf and gather dust. We will hire an Economic Development Officer to implement the strategies identified in the research.
I believe we need to have a more balanced property tax split. An intermediate target should be 80/20 with a long range target of 60 / 40. Economic diversification will not happen overnight. My priority over the past number of years has been to focus on acheiving a critical mass and momentum in residential growth in order to attract commercial development. We have had great success in atracting residential development with a reasonable increase in commercial businesses. I say reasonable because our proximity to both St. Albert and Edmonton makes that a significant challenge. It is clearly a double edged sword living close to those Cities. We get the benefit of being close to the amenities they offer but it comes at the detriment of attracting business to Morinville.
I have some thoughts on what we can do now to change our focus to include a more aggressive approach to attracting businesses to Town. Not at the expense of residential development but in addition to our efforts in that area.
The largest problem we currently have is that there is no serviced industrial land in Morinville of any consequence. There are only a few small parcels left in our existing business park. Even if a company wanted to locate their business in Town we have no place to put them. I believe we should aquire some land adjacent to our existing buisness park and then actively seek a private sector partner to develop the land. I do not believe the Town should assume the risk of becoming a land developer. Buying some land is as far as I believe we should go. We could co-ordinate marketing efforts to attract business and recover our costs through the sale of the lots.
The second idea I have for economic diversification is to bring back our tax incentive program. I previously campaigned on this platform and we acheived some success in attracting new businesses to Town. It was determined by a majority of council, not unamimous, to end this program a few years ago. The previous program was simple to understand and administer. We gave a rebate of 50% of the property tax in the first year, 30% the second and 20% in the third year. This tax incentive program was also available to exisitng businesses in Town the expanded their buildings as well. The main opposition to the previous program was that it resulted in forgone tax revenue. It does, however, it is forgone revenue of new tax dollars, not of exisiting tax dollars. In my opinion it is better to have a reduced percentage of new property tax dollars in the short term (3 years)from new non-residential development than 100% of nothing.
We currently have an excellent relationship with the Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce. Every year we provide the arena and curling rink to them at no charge for their incredibly successful trade show. I believe this should continue. The Chamber also rents Parras House from the Town at a reduced rate in exchange for providing some services the Town would otherwise do. For example, they act as the Towns tourist information centre. The Chamber successfuly applied for a grant to develop a tourism strategy for the Town and region. To avoid duplication of efforts in the development of this strategy, our staff are actively working with the Chamber to co-ordinate our branding and marketing stratgies as part of the tourism strategy. We actively engage the Chamber when issues we are considering may impact on their members. Day trip tourism is one area where I believe we could be very successful. We can attract all manner of folks to come visit us for day events such as the St. Jean Baptiste Festival and the Santa Claus parade to name a few. Events that promote the Town of Morinville and help our existing businesses by bringing people from the area to Town.
The Town does not leave the larger economic diversification responsibilities to the Chamber. President Fingler clearly states in his comments on the forum issue, found elsewhere in the Morinville News, that the Chambers responsibilities are to their exisitng members. Could they have a role in attracting new business? Absolutely ! However, at this time, there is no agreement between the Town and the Chamber in this area. They simply do not have the resources to do it.
Now that the Town has a very solid foundation established there is no doubt in my mind that a comprehensive economic diversification strategy with the resources to implement it should be one of the top priorities of the new council. As your Mayor for the next three years…it will be !
Thank you for your comments and concerns:
Our business/industry and residential ratio is not very good; (as everyone is aware) the numbers are high, like 90/10 (rounding the number), which is 90% residential and 10% Commercial/Industrial, if it was the other way around it still would NOT be good for Morinville. We need to achieve the 70/30 mark. I believe that we (the Town with it residents and the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce as a collate group need to improve these figures).
I believe the Chamber of Commerce mandate is to support and build on the memberships they presently have and not to be the economic and tourism committee of our great municipality of Morinville, as some might think.
The Chamber should be putting most of their resources on working with the present businesses and future businesses on how to make their everyday business success in Morinville, by means of Networking, Promoting, and Educating them just to name a few.
We need to start to educate our citizens to SHOP LOCALLY – that also includes the Town administration and Council members. I stated earlier the number 90/10, well forget those numbers; Morinville has a population of over 7600 and there should be no reason why they can’t shop and save here. Our prices are comparable and in some cases if you add the cost of gas to go to St. Albert or Edmonton they are paying more.
We need to advise (some may say force) the empty commercial lot owners in our town to built or sell to someone who will build. An empty lot does no justice to our 100 Avenue and 100 Street commercial layouts. When the visitors that come and visit, what do you think their first impression is?
Morinville needs more commercial and industrial businesses, that’s why I believe we need to start an Economic Development and Tourism committee and that does NOT mean hire a Economic Development Officer, but have Morinville residents and Business Owners on the committee to pursue new businesses and tourism for Morinville without hindering the present businesses we presently have. We need to do the ground work first, such as; what do we have, what do we want, do we have the infrastructure requirements (road, water, sewer etc) to support the new businesses and so on. Then when we are ready that is when we should look for an Economic Development Officer, if the expertise does not exist in the committee already.
We need to be all Good Ambassadors and advice, tell, and even shout to the World that Morinville is Open for Business and that all are welcome. Being a believer in Morinville, I will make Morinville known to the world that the Town of Morinville is Open for Business and a place to raise your family. There are businesses out there that want to come to Morinville however; have no one to speak to or anywhere to go to get information. We need to move on this now.
We need to be speaking to Sturgeon County Council in an open and fair discussion on how we can work together as a team and how we can share resources. We need to start the development of land (between Highway 37 and Morinville on Highway 2) as Highway Commercial/Industrial. Plus we need to be talking to our partners at the Provincial level on how they can improve Highway 2 (over pass on Cardiff Road intersection and a three or four lane Highway 2).
The Town, Residents, and even the Chamber of Commerce all have key role to play in making this a success; the Economic Development Committee bring them in, the Chamber keep them here. At the same time we all (citizens of Morinville) should be bragging on how great our town is for business and it is even a great place to raise a family in a safe manner.
Small Town – Big Potential.
As Councillor I will ask that an economic development plan be completed. A qualified and experienced economic development officer will be hired to develop and implement that plan.
I have visited almost all of the households in Morinville. Residents and businesses have provided many suggestions to me on economic development. Rather than give you only my ideas at this time I would want to engage the residents, Morinville District Chamber of Commerce and neighboring communities in an economic development planning process that has performance measures and long-term review dates.
The time for rhetoric on economic development has long past. I grow tired of hearing 93-7 or 90-10 residential to commercial mix numbers. Both of those numbers are far from what allows a sustainable community.
We need to address how we continue to keep Morinville the type of community we are proud to live and work in.