2/2/15

Economic Directions

Below is the text of a speech (slightly altered) I gave to the Mississippi Mills Chamber of Commerce on January 21. It describes my goals for economic development.

"I will start with some myth busting. You will often hear the old taxation truism that if you increase your industrial commercial assessment, it reduces residential taxes. There is no direct connection and no guarantee.

"Carleton Place and Perth both have an industrial commercial assessment percentage about four times greater than our meager rate of 4.2%. Are their local residential taxes less? In CP, the residential tax rate is 39% more than ours. In Perth, it is 85% more.

"Why? You have to look at how much “wealth” the industrial-commercial assessment brings with it.

"If the assessment comes from malls and big-box stores, it brings subsistence, not wealth. It does not pay employees enough money to buy a house and engage fully in their local economy.

"We need a mix of jobs—lower tier, mid tier and upper tier.  Our town is doing reasonably well in the first two categories.

"It is the last—the higher-paying, value-added careers—that we need to attract. These are found in leading-edge industries that create well-paying, interesting jobs—the kind of careers that might bring our youth home after college or university.

"The way to attract the people that create these jobs is by making sure that Mississippi Mills remains a great place to live. Arts, culture, built heritage, natural charm and lifestyle are the qualities that bring the wealth-generating people to live and invest.

"We do need to do better at selling lots in our industrial park to increase tax revenue and get the related debt off our books.

"But, it is riverside parks, not industrial parks, that attract the wealth creators.

"The chances of getting the next Blackberry are slim. But we can attract high-tech start-ups and small existing firms that sell creativity, brainpower and critical expertise. In fact, we already have some of these.

"At Council’s next brainstorming meeting on February 10, I have invited local entrepreneur Nick Martyn of Risklogik to give a short presentation on some of his business ideas for our town. Drop by for his talk. It will start shortly after 6 PM.

"As mayor, I have role in economic development. In that role, I need advice and guidance.

"In mid-January, I had my first meeting with a group of people I call my prosperity advisers. Our plan is to meet several times yearly to discuss our current and future economy.

"The group represents the six main business sectors of Mississippi Mills. At the first meeting I had:
  • Mary Trider Wilson representing health care
  • Michael Coxon from the Mills
  • Gord Pike representing independent business
  • Vic Bode to speak for tourism
  • Bruce Kingsley as a rep for arts and culture
  • Allan Lowry representing agriculture.
"Three of us from that group also sit on the Community and Economic Development Committee.

"That way, ideas and plans can flow between the two. Together, we can seize economic opportunities that appear a month from now and prepare for economic activity in the next decade."

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