Ask-a-Candidate Question No. 1

compiled by Ashley Janes

Q: Town residents have been voicing their concern regarding business development. Some have argued that there is a lack of variety and development is too slow. Others are concerned about irresponsible development and what unregulated growth will do to our quality of life. Where do you stand on this issue and will you list at least one way you plan to influence local business development if you are elected to council?

Ruth Shymka
A: Shop local! Business development has been a long standing desire, as well as, concern for the citizens of Morinville. Over the years we have seen many businesses open and unfortunately close their doors. We know business is important for the economic development of our town, however, in the past we have not always supported new businesses enough to enable them to succeed. Shopping locally is very important if we want to maintain what we have and encourage new businesses to come to Morinville. Promotion, patronage and encouragement of shopping and utilizing services locally should be a focus of council.

Stephen Dafoe
A: With the passing of the 642 Functional Plan, commercial landowners can now develop their properties, making space available for new businesses to start. We need that. In the short time since its passing we have seen two projects moving forward on 100 Avenue. The Town’s new economic development officer needs to capitalize on this opportunity by encouraging more. Our Planning and Development department needs to make sure those knocking on their door are treated respectfully as ratepayers and potential ratepayers and not as planners and developers. I am looking for an operational review and more collaboration with the Chamber.

James O’Brien
A: Council must clarify where we’re headed and what we collectively see happening within Morinville in the near future. Don’t suggest we hire yet another consultant to drive this issue – we can’t afford it. Our newly hired Economic Development Coordinator hasn’t started work yet, so it’s a little early to be ‘influencing’ local business development. We must give him the opportunity (maybe a year?) to devise a strategy and convince Council of the validity of his plan. I would demand a review of ALL relevant policies and procedures to streamline approvals for potential businesses.

David Pattison
A: I am employed in land use planning and economic development. I work on business development every day. I will support the new Economic Development Coordinator’s work in policies to attract new businesses and retain existing. As Councillor chairing the Municipal Planning Commission, I worked with Town staff to have the MPC take an advisory role updating planning documents. All areas of Town are subject to the new Land Use By-Law which regulates growth. In seeking re-election, I will continue to encourage policies that support local business such as requesting the Town purchase goods and services from those businesses.

Brent Henry
A: There must be a balance. I think the Town has made a good first step by hiring an Economic Development person. However, we need to ensure that this person is approaching only those business sectors that will be a good fit for Morinville. Do we need another liquor store or factory with potential odour emission issues? No. Do we want a clothing and/or a shoe store? Is Morinville well located for a large warehouse and distribution operation? Yes. Once we have the right fit, we need to offer incentives that will encourage them to stay without giving away tax money.

Gord Putnam
A: If I am elected to council I would collaborate with other council members, the Mayor, administration and citizens to develop a vision that reflects the views of all stakeholders specific to economic development. With action we will get clear on the direction our town wishes to take. Once we have alignment on the vision we pursue the plan with full support and resources. I have a skill set specific to economic development which I wish to share to assist this process.

Barry Turner
A: Opportunity attracts business. I would maximize opportunity by ensuring lots are zoned for commercial use and by ensuring land use planning recognizes the economic realities of redevelopment. A historic downtown core combined with less restrictive lots outside of downtown ensures the historic character of Morinville and allows for less regulated development in other areas. Every dollar spent locally circulates several times. The Town should buy locally and join the Chamber in a Buy Local campaign. Events keep people in town and bring visitors which also grows the local market. A business incubator program would increase opportunity for new businesses. I would work with Council to invest in the local economy.

Jennifer Laurence
A: I believe as a Council & Community we need to decide if we want to be a “bedroom” community or growing our local businesses to include a variety of services. I hear town residents voicing concerns regarding the variety or the fact that we are overstocked with certain services. I would like to throw this question out should I be elected. What do we do as a Council & Administration to help new businesses or existing businesses grow in our community? Very little! I would like to focus on implementing “Shop Locally” initiatives and help open the doors to new businesses instead of red tape and bylaws.

Jackie Luker
A: Business development is not necessarily just about bringing in the new. It’s also about supporting what we have, the importance of shopping locally and its effect on our local economy. If 5000 people spend $50 in our town that could equate to a potential economic spinoff of $250,000, right here in Morinville. If entrepreneurs believe there is a need for their idea and an opportunity to make a profit they will spend the time and capital required to invest in the community and open a business. However, they are going to be less likely to invest their money if local business is not being supported. I will continue to shop locally and support my community.

Brennan FitzGerald
A: Businesses will invest in areas where there’s a strong culture of local shopping and significant traffic. We need to keep Morinville residents in town to shop if other businesses are going to set up. I suggest we do this by taking care of what we have now. An investment matching incentive program for local businesses to invest in the outer aesthetics of their property (vintage canopies, flowerbeds, patio’s…etc.) would encourage local traffic/business and create a Morinville shopping culture. The program worked in St. Albert, especially downtown, and look at the development and traffic! People want to shop in pretty places.

Brandy Keenleyside
A: I agree with the residents of Morinville, we definitely need more variety when it comes to small business. I can completely understand their concerns as it is hard as consumers to spend and support local business when the options are extremely limited on the flip side it makes it hard for small business to compete with the bigger chain stores being so close in St. Albert. We have to find a way to entice a variety of small businesses to Morinville, whether it be with a tax break for the first year, and to ensure that rent/leases are affordable and competitive.

Wayne Gatza
A: The scope of economic development includes the process and policies by which a town improves the economic and social well-being of its residents. We have hired an economic development officer which will help in this process however there are our steps involved like purchasing land for new business / investors to build new store front etc. as we currently do not have a lot of available space. There are incentives in place for new businesses. It is crucial that we find ways to attract those businesses that will enhance our community, provide value to our citizens and make Morinville the first choice for people to live.

Rob Ladouceur
A: Both sides presented here are valid. Economic development is important and it has been happening too slowly but if it happens too quickly then it will create poor growth. I will work with Council and Administration to develop a growth strategy that creates an inviting community to build and grow a business. That starts with new industrial zoned land and seeing existing commercial land made available to developers. I also believe it is important to ensure we have attractive tax incentives for new and existing businesses and ensure current permitting costs are fair.

Nicole Boutestein
A: As Morinville grows we would like to see a variety of businesses. We can only hope for this as we ultimately can’t stop anyone from setting up shops if they have an approved business license. I beg you to keep an open mind while driving through town and see how many businesses have closed due to lack of customers… last time I looked, they were all doing fine so someone is supporting them. With a newly hired Economic Development Officer I can foresee targeted businesses coming to town. I believe that once we get this started there will be a ripple effect and more diverse businesses will come.

Lawrence Giffin
A: There is a business development permit process that must be followed. If the town has a concern about an abundance of a specific service it can be regulated with the permit process. There is also a lack of commercial space. I know of people who would have opened a clothing store but couldn’t find a suitable space. This can only be improved by encouraging building. The first step would be to speed up and stream line the permit process. It should not take months to receive a development permit. Another way to encourage investment is to provide tax incentives, although this can be complex and unfair to other businesses.

Joseph Trapani
A: Candidate did not provide a response to the question by our deadline. Look for him in upcoming publications.

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8 Comments

  1. Reading some of these responses it seems a number of candidates are not well versed in the existing permitting processes nor do they understand how zoning works and is related to permitting. For everyone’s sake, please call the Planning Department or do some online research and educate yourselves before making your comments. I came across a great primer on planning and land use process on the Town’s website without too much effort. Highly recommend all candidates read it.

  2. Nicole:
    How can you tell the strength/viability of a business by driving by????? You need to go in!!!

  3. Is it true or a rumour that the town turned down a proposal for Sears for a distribution centre because of possible truck traffic.

  4. Town needs a new industrial park maybe to the east of town on 642 and not mess it up with housing like what happened in south glens development that was supposed to be industrial.

  5. Morinville can only attract manufacturing types of business. Rental business is to close to the bigger markets in the cities. St Albert is getting closer every day.

  6. I can’t help but be absolutely underwhelmed by Nicole’s answer. This is not the answer I would expect from someone that has been on council for an entire term. The comment “last time I looked, they were all doing fine” doesn’t make sense. You have access to financial statements from every business in Morinville?

  7. Paul If there was ever a distribution center proposed for the Town it is certainly nothing I heard about over the past decade. I think you can put this into the “busted” category of the rumor mill.

  8. Economic development is an interesting problem for our town. As a municipality we do not have any land to put any development. If we really want to see economic growth we need to have our Administration work with local land developers to ensure that they are ready to develop their sites to ensure we get the growth we need.

    If we want growth whether that is a hotel or industrial growth then our Council and Administration need to attact business and link them up with the local developers. This has not happened to date.

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