Don McCormick wants to start a community discussion around economic development. Since the beginning of his campaign for Kimberley’s Mayor’s seat, McCormick’s message has been that the city must rein in its spending and generate new business.
Kimberley cannot rely, he says, on continually raising residential taxes year after year. New sources of tax money must be found.
“Instead, we need to spend what we have prudently, and generate new revenues. Increasing tourism helps business, but it doesn’t help city coffers. We can increase civic revenues in only three ways – by attracting new businesses, by attracting more grants, and by attracting new residential development.”
McCormick has released an economic development strategy that contains a list of 10 ideas he says will help Kimberley and the surrounding area become sustainable over the long term.
“Economic development is something that gets talked about at election time and then follow through is not always so good,” he said. “At then end of the day, we need new ideas to drive towards.
“I believe that this strategy can take us where we need to be. I don’t expect everything on my list to happen overnight, and I recognize that some of the ideas might not even materialize, but we have to start somewhere. A community-wide discussion is a good place to begin.”
According to the strategy, light industrial development must be a priority for job creation. “Kimberley can be attractive to certain businesses, but we need to start actively promoting the economic value we can offer light industry,” he says. “For example, we offer the lowest industrial tax rate in the valley, and we offer a tax hiatus for new building, but up to now the Kootenay business world has not responded to these incentives — we need to be more aggressive at getting the word out.”
Other ideas on the list include convincing businesses in the Clean-tech corridor: Biofuel makers, imaging and display companies, fuel cell manufacturers, portable power businesses, waste solutions, data centres, call centres, and cloud computing facilities that Kimberley offers an ideal place to do business; and appealing to amenity migrants and value-added wood product manufacturers. McCormick also suggests trying to lure lost government services back into the community.
Another area with tremendous potential is remote workers, he says.
“We have been talking about people who work in Fort MacMurray and the northern mines but there are other opportunities as well, some very close to home.
“There are a tremendous number of people who choose to live in Kimberley and work in Cranbrook. That’s exactly the same as working in Fort MacMurray. It’s interesting how many people choose to do that.”
Another opportunity is the LNG development coming in the north, particularly in the Kitimat area.
“LNG development up there is going to produce thousands of jobs. There’s no way Kitimat can absorb that.”
McCormick says that the city needs to expand its definition of “retail market.” He point out that the catchment area is not just the 6,000 people who live in Kimberley; it is the entire valley, especially the 34,000-person market in the Cranbrook-Kimberley region. McCormick also believes that Kimberley needs to let the world know it is open for business.
“This will require more direct communication than ever before, with key messages targeted to the federal and provincial governments and to broader business interests,” he said.
McCormick also wants to revive the city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC), which was abandoned several years ago. “Given a proper mandate, an economic development ‘think tank’ can be a terrific source of ideas, and it can provide valuable advisory insight and analysis to help inform Kimberley’s economic development agenda.”
McCormick wants to hear from Kimberley residents who may have their own ideas about economic development opportunties.
“I hope my list of 10 potential economic development opportunities for Kimberley and the surrounding area will help trigger a broad community-wide discussion on economic development. The ideas are presented as a starting point for discussion. I hope they will stimulate your thinking on this topic, and that you will contribute to this important discussion.”
The complete economic development strategy can be found at http://donmccormick.ca/economic-development or below.
To start a broad-based, community-wide discussion about how to make Kimberley sustainable, I would like to propose 10 ideas that if implemented could help kick-start regional economic development.
I believe the vision articulated in the 2011 City of Kimberley Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (Imagine Kimberley) is an excellent starting point for a community discussion. This discussion is about building on the plans of our predecessors, and taking action to make our shared vision for Kimberley a reality.
To support Kimberley’s sustainability plan, I suggest we need to set a clear, realistic, measurable economic development course. Economic development must be our highest strategic priority. This means we must set goals, execute a well-thought-out plan, and measure results. To help with this work, I intend to resurrect the city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC), which was abandoned several years ago. This economic development think tank will provide valuable advisory insight, and its analysis and ideas will help inform Kimberley’s new economic development agenda.
First and foremost, I think we need to spend what we have more prudently. New community development initiatives should only be funded with new money. To put the situation in context, our tax rate is already one of highest in the Kootenay region, but the city needs to keep raising taxes each year just to maintain the status quo. If we want to improve our infrastructure, increase tourism levels, and support business growth, we need to find new money. To find new money, we have to increase our industrial tax base, increase our residential tax base, and succeed in winning more grant applications.
Second, we need more jobs. A strong industrial component to our community will bring more jobs and more income for our businesses. But growth cannot come at any cost. So this discussion is also about the types of industries, and the types of jobs, that we can attract to this area.
The list below is not definitive. It is simply a way to start the conversation. We are already familiar with many of these initiatives – increasing tourism, remote workers, value-added wood products, education and amenity migrants – but we need to improve our ability to deliver in these areas.
1. Increased tourism: Increasing tourism is good for our businesses, and building our promotional capacity in specific, proven, targeted markets will help bring more visitors here.
2. Sun Mine expansion: To protect taxpayers from risk of subsidy, the Sun Mine development needs to grow from its current peak base of one megawatt to the originally planned two megawatts or more. This will strengthen revenues and any surplus solar power can be sold to light industries – particulary clean-tech companies looking for affordable sources of clean energy.
3 Clean-tech corridor: Biofuel makers, imaging and display companies, fuel cell manufacturers, portable power businesses, waste solutions, data centres, call centres, and cloud computing facilities can be convinced to relocate here with what we have to offer – an area with few extreme weather events, access to cheap water and power, and an active, healthy lifestyle for their employees.
4. Government services: Kimberley is underserved by government services at both the federal and provincial levels. We can work harder to bring back more of these services – and the jobs they bring with them – to this area.
5. Remote workers: Given the proper commuter infrastructure, we can entice workers and their families to live in Kimberley while working in other communities such as Fort McMurray, Kitimat, and Cranbrook. Cranbrook has quietly taken the lead in this, and Kitimat represents a brand new opportunity.
6. Value-added wood products: We can attract more wood workers. Tyee Log Homes is a good example of the type of small woodworking business that can thrive in Kimberley. We need more of these types of enterprises.
7. Post-secondary education: We can increase the number of international students who come here, and we can provide more job-specific training in niche areas such as environmental site remediation and new technology support.
8. Amenities migrants: Many new retirees are looking for just the sort of active, outdoorsy lifestyle we have, as are a great number of urban teleworkers who want to escape from the daily grind. To date, most have simply found us; we need to actively promote the Kimberley Advantage to potential amenities migrants.
9. Import replacements: Import replacements are large-volume products consumed in BC and Alberta that are currently imported from elsewhere but that could be manufactured here, given the right conditions.
10. Eating disorder clinic: Eating disorders require specialized treatment in specialized centres. Currently, BC residents frequently travel south of the border because they do not have access to the treatment they need. Kimberley is an ideal location for an eating disorder clinic that would attract patients from both the US and Canada.
Not everyone will agree with these ideas—in fact, the final list will almost certainly end up looking quite different from this one. Each idea must be carefully considered by the community, and in the event the community is split, a democratic referendum process can be used if necessary. For ideas that are accepted, specific targets must be established – net new jobs, new housing starts, increased tax revenues, grant money secured – these are a few of the metrics that can help us measure progress toward our sustainability goals. If one idea is rejected, another idea must be added—to be successful in our drive to long-term sustainability we must work simultaneously on multiple fronts.
Please send me your own ideas on this important topic. As Mayor of Kimberley, I will work hard to realize our shared vision.