Hundreds of Chilliwack residents attended Tuesday's city council all-candidates meeting at Evergreen Hall.

Attracting business and jobs an election issue

A business friendly approach was mentioned by several council candidates as the best way to attract jobs and investment to Chilliwack.

  • Nov. 18, 2011 6:00 a.m.

Continuing to foster a business friendly approach was mentioned by several council candidates as the best way to attract jobs and investment to Chilliwack.

Seventeen of the 20 candidates vying for a seat on council responded.

Several suggested the pro-business bent in Chilliwack, or the success CEPCO has seen to date in attracting large employers, were key factors in bringing new employers and investment to town.

Some praised the work of CEPCO, and the BIA. Others cited the Canada Education Park and low taxes as attractants.

At least one candidate bucked the pro-CEPCO trend and said the economic development work in Chilliwack should be done in-house by a volunteer-run agency. Another countered that argument, and reinforced the value-for-money Chilliwack gets with CEPCO’s successes.

In fact for ongoing business attraction and retention several said they supported the work of the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (CEPCO) and that getting more industrial tenants was stressed by a couple candidates.

A council candidate suggested the city take “a more proactive role in our partnership with CEPCO” and to specifically target sectors like aviation and aerospace, as well as agriculture, film and TV, and more.

One candidate advocated a “Chilliwack business first” approach for deciding which companies get hired to build projects like new libraries, while another suggested mentoring small businesses and streamlining bureaucratic hurdles to doing business.

Improving infrastructure and keeping taxes low were pinpointed by one of the candidates, while another was eager to see the OCP overhauled.

For the complete candidate responses to this last election question, go to www.theprogress.com.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

 

Dick Harrington

What immediately came to mind on this question is what I said at the All-Candidates’ forum at Evergreen Hall- that we need an all-volunteer “Economic Development Agency”, whose mandate is to promote Chilliwack and to encourage business to come to this city. I was on exactly such a board and I know that it can work. The reason that volunteers do a superior job than do private, “at-profit” firms, is that these volunteers are 100% into it for the benefit of their city, not for their own profit line. I would ask a few small business owners, a few larger corporate owners, perhaps one lawyer ( only one), perhaps one Realtor (only one), one representative from city hall staff etc. The mandate would be to promote Chilliwack as has “never been done before”. The only cost for this organization would be to cover mailing and ad costs – substantially far less than the $650,000 that is presently going to pay for CEPCO. Our own EDA would promote Chilliwack in Europe and Asia, as well as the United States and across Canada. I firmly believe that the beautiful natural landscape in this area would be an incentive to bring business leaders to Chilliwack. The close proximity to Vancouver and the northwest U.S. market would also be a stimulus. Instead of waiting for others to do this for us, it is long overdue that we did it for ourselves. People will be amazed at the positive success that a volunteer-based economic development agency can bring.

 

Gord Kornelsen

I have worked and owned a business in Chilliwack for most of my 37 years of marriage. I have done my best to spend my money in Chilliwack with local business whenever possible. I believe it is the people of Chilliwack who ultimately create the environment for jobs and the retention of investment in the community. The council can continue to advocate for and encourage the residents of Chilliwack to do their business in Chilliwack and invest locally. We already have one of the best tax rates. We need to have the council making wise choices as to which businesses are encouraged and supported in our community. Government does not create jobs but rather fosters an environment in which companies can provide employment because of good sound management of its resources. www.Gordkornelsen.com

 

Sue Attrill

When it comes to attracting businesses to Chilliwack, I think it is important for City Hall to be easy to do business with.  We have long had a reputation for be a great place for business and we need to sure we don’t lose that.  We have a “can do” attitude. CEPCO is also very crutial in bringing business to Chilliwack. They actively pursue companies to open shop and employ people within our community. Our business tax multiplier is the lowest of 19 communities around us and our residential taxes are second lowest.  I am committed to keeping the tax burden low.  All of these things add up to wonderful opportunities for growth and a strong local economy.

 

Roger Myers

While 72% of the population are living and working in Chilliwack, approximately half of those are not living, they are existing. Most jobs in Chilliwack, albeit a good statistic, are minimum wage or just above. The time is now to attract large industry to our city. As stated prior, although it’s ‘cool’ to have big box stores like Future Shop and Wal-Mart at our disposal, industries such as the Kal-Tire plant are what’s needed to bring better paying jobs to Chilliwack. When our citizens can lice comfortably and remain, without seeking employment outside of our community, the benefits will truly show. We have an under-developed business park sitting nearly empty. We have the infrastructure in place. As a council, we must entice new industry to set up shop. We are an easy sell. Our attractions, our amenities and own backyard speak volumes to our lifestyle. With have a successful post secondary education facility, that produce qualified trade workers, just waiting to impress a potential new employers. But do to the lack of industries, these specialists go on to find employment outside of our cities boundaries. Our industrial park is close to rail and products can be transported to and from our city. We are our own ambassadors and through public consultation, we can attract new businesses together. Not just as a council, but as a community.

 

Chad Eros

Chilliwack has one of the last heavy industrial zoned corridors in the Vancouver and Lower Mainland area. More and more manufacturing businesses continue to move their Vancouver or Surrey based operations to Chilliwack since it makes economic sense to sell land at a high dollar amount and buy low in Chilliwack. The Chilliwack municipality must ensure that the cost benefit analysis for these companies continues to make sense in regards to cost paid for land and development cost charges collected by the city. The more enticing it is for companies to move their operations to Chilliwack, the more real jobs are created, the more houses are built, the more residential property taxes the city has access to to provide services for our growing population. Concentrating on raising taxes should not be the goal, but on increasing tax revenues through business growth and population growth and achieving economies of scale (the more dense a population, the farther we can stretch our tax dollars to pay for services). I have said before that developers need to compete based on design before creating subdivisions as they do in other successful cities. Perhaps companies that can prove real job growth can compete for better development cost charge deals for developing commercial land. This is one idea, but whatever ideas we put forward should be to attract job rich businesses to Chilliwack. So in conclusion, we need to keep our pulse on the all in cost of developing industrial commercial land in Chilliwack, and provide incentives for the quality of manufacturers that wish to bring in job rich businesses to Chilliwack.

 

Garth Glassel

I wish to thank all the citizens of Chilliwack who are going to vote in this election, you will make me proud. I also wish to thank all the candidates who put their names forward to run for council. I believe that the old council is stagnant, I believe that the City Staff are not being held to account to you. This will change after I am elected, the council and staff will be accountable to you, the residents of Chilliwack. Logic, Common Sense and Reason as well as being in touch with the values of a modern day Chilliwack will be my top priority. Governance is a privilege and it can be revoked every 3 years, by you the voter. I will pledge to you to provide the governance that you expect, and demand. No more waste, no more make work projects from out of area companies and a “Chilliwack Business First” approach to city projects. We need to get local business involved in the construction and building of our city, to provide even more local jobs.We could have the jobs in Chilliwack to keep our businesses busy and the ability to attract new business ventures but we need a city council that has the gumption to take on the wasteful spending and keep our taxpayer money in this community. No more having a Surrey company building our sidewalks, no more having a Langley company building another under-utilized Library. No more having a Richmond or a Vancouver consultant doing more forgotten studies. That money is not staying in our city, those companies are spending their paychecks in their communities, not ours.  We have companies in Chilliwack that can do all these things, the Council just needs to make sure that the staff adheres to the new “Chilliwack Business First” approach. If a Surrey, Richmond, Vancouver or Langley Company wants to win a bid, open up a office here and employ Chilliwack people. This only makes “Common Sense” to me, what about you? You will also know what I stand for before every city council vote, you will also know where I stand on every issue before hand. How? I will publish a column, paid for by myself, every month in the local newspapers. You need the information on how the city council votes and at this time, you are not getting it.

 

Mitchell Nosko

Attracting, promoting and mentoring new and existing business is the key in making sure our community thrives. There are several ways that city council can help in doing so. We can set up a business mentorship program that will streamline the bureaucratic hurdles to setting up business or relocating one to Chilliwack. We need to continue working with groups like the downtown BIA as well as the public in taking a more hands on approach towards improving conditions in the downtown. Part of this initiative is to continue to encourage CEPCO (Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation)  to use their resources to purchase derelict buildings and either demolish them or renovate the properties befitting the city’s vision for downtown.  We also need to take a more proactive role in our partnership with CEPCO to promote Chilliwack as a great place to do business. Specifically targeting business sectors such as aviation and aerospace, agriculture, film and TV productions, manufacturing, retail and professional service industries. A key component of this is maintaining and promoting our competitive advantage in business and residential tax rates and land costs. Finally, we need to continue to promote Chilliwack as a world class education destination. Supporting the growth of the Canada Education Park and UFV is paramount to this goal. Having a strong educational sector allows us to promote that we have a ready source of locally trained skilled labor. My name is Mitchell Nosko and I ask for your support on the 19th so that I can be part of the team that make this a reality.

 

Ron Wedel

Chilliwack has done a good job attracting business and investment to Chilliwack.  We must continue to promote our recreational amenities and educational facilities to attract an increase in the workforce.  As well, we must continue to have an overall housing value in the way of quality, and availability to attract new business to Chilliwack. Better infrastructure and keeping taxes low will also bring new business to Chilliwack.

 

Stewart McLean

As a council we can continue the work we’ve already begun to attract even more jobs and investment in Chilliwack. We have maintained one of the lowest industrial/business tax multipliers in the Lower Mainland Fraser Valley which is great attraction to business to want to be based in our community. We need to continue the marketing of our community to businesses letting them know how good it is to do business and live in Chilliwack. This is being accomplished in a number of ways including CEPCO and Chilliwack Tourism. As a city council we need to continue to work on redevelopment strategies that will encourage new business to develop and come to Chilliwack. We have to keep putting out the message of how good a place Chilliwack is to live in and do business in.

 

Gerry Goosen

As a member of the Chilliwack Council i would ensure that we continue with an already successful plan to promote our community through the ongoing funding and hard work of the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (CEPCO), the endorsement of the Chilliwack Agriculture Area Plan (AAP ) and the support of the Business Improvement Association (BIA). These associations work toward not only enhancing an already proven success in our community, but strive towards sustainability of our businesses, resources, land use and environment. I would offer input to the redevelopment of the OCP that ensures the correct mix of residential, business and agriculture with the eye to providing long-term solutions and securities for all stake holders. I would work towards the maintaining of the present low tax rate for business and commerce and strive to develop incentives for businesses and industry to relocate to our community as well as instigating programs to establish and mentor new start-ups.

 

Ian B. Carmichael

W.P. Kinsella the noted author (and former Chilliwack resident), creator of the story “Field of Dreams” wrote the iconic line……”Build it, and they will come.” Chilliwack with our spectacular nature setting, the unmatchable competitive advantages of location to transportation corridors, north and south, east and west, competitive business environment,  the choice of lifestyles and livability options, education and health services. All these elements contribute to our community being one of the most consistent growth areas in our province now and for the foreseeable future. However, here in Chilliwack, despite Mr. Kinsella’s notable musing, “Even if we don’t build it, they are still going to come!” Our past councils have done yeoman’s work building the foundation for our future. Partnering with the federal government in the establishment of the RCMP training facility PRTC, working closely with the provincial government with UFV and Justice Institute campuses located at the Canada Education Park, these investments are now and will continue to be, major contributors to family sustaining job growth in our community for years to come. As a fully accredited research institution, the prospects of spinoff entrepreneurial enterprises, originating from UFV will be the impetus for Chilliwack to truly enter into the knowledge based economy where much of the job growth is expected to be generated in the coming decades. Chilliwack has always faced the challenge of matching family sustaining employment to population growth. That challenge is as real today as it was in the 1950s. CEPCO has done a very good job of promoting our community, regionally, nationally and internationally, attracting employers to come and join us in building a better place we all call home. We have a compact and sustainable urban core to our community. This is a vital factor in the type of employment we are likely to attract in coming years. It fits with our current model that Knowledge Based Economy employers will be attracted to a city with a dynamic, diverse and inclusive social, economic and environmental approach. The foundation has been layed, our task going forward is to ensure we maximize our opportunities to attract private sector job growth, based on family sustaining jobs per hectare. It is a big challenge, one I believe our community is capable of capitalizing on, particularly in the areas of agriculture research, aerospace and high tech development. Chilliwack is one of the premier cities in our province, that truly can lay claim to being a “Whole Community” where its citizens do, Live, Work and Play. My goal is to work with the residents, stakeholders and business to preserve and enhance that approach going forward.

 

Ken Huttema

With the current state of the world economy it is very difficult to attract new investment so it is first of all extremely important to retain the existing businesses that we have. Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation is a valuable tool in the attraction of new business but just as important is their work in helping local business survive. Chilliwack has a very competitive property tax rate for business and it will be imperative on city council to maintain that position. Tax relief for those businesses that are looking to expand their buildings are also available from the city. This will also help existing business to expand their operations and so create more jobs in Chilliwack. So it isn’t only about bringing new business and jobs to the City of Chilliwack but also creating a business friendly environment that allows the present economy to grow and provide the additional jobs.

 

Ron Browne

Throughout this election campaign I have said that my top priority as Councillor will be to help Chilliwack prosper by working through the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (CEPCO) to create more jobs in Chilliwack and attract new businesses to our great city. There are important benefits to being able to work where you live. The main one is that you have more time to be with your family because the travel time is so much shorter. In addition to time with your family you have more time to participate in or coach sports and to enjoy community events. The environmental bonus is that your carbon footprint is considerably smaller.  From the city council point of view, we will have a healthier community and for the city’s bottom line we will have revenue from not only your residential property tax but also your employer’s business property tax. This helps to keep both taxes low. CEPCO has done an excellent job of attracting new businesses. In the bigger province-wide picture, Chilliwack rates better than many communities on the employment front. Our city has streamlined the “red tape” making establishing business much easier than in many other communities. As a result of the recession, competition among municipalities for more jobs is much stronger. We have to continue to offer low taxes and emphasize our competitive land costs. There is plenty of room for clean manufacturing. We want to encourage diversified and efficient farming operations. We want to continue to attract employers like University of the Fraser Valley and RCMP. We also want to attract appropriate retailers so that people living here spend more of their money here, especially downtown. I will work closely with CEPCO to make sure no stone is unturned in looking for new opportunities that will bring new business to Chilliwack. We want the world to know that Chilliwack is open for business.

 

Jason Lum

You attract jobs and investment by focusing on economic development, and by keeping your business tax multiplier equitable in relation to residential. Businesses equal jobs close to home, and property taxes to the City. In Chilliwack we have CEPCO, an innovative economic development corporation paid for and owned by you – the citizens of Chilliwack. Having an arms-length economic development organization gives the City flexibility when dealing with complex business development transactions – while still delivering the benefits, accountability, and proceeds of its work to it’s sole shareholder – the City of Chilliwack (and by extension – you the taxpayer) I sit on the board of directors for this organization as an appointee of Mayor and Council – I am a 100% unpaid volunteer, as are my fellow board members. I believe the best way to attract business, jobs, and industry to Chilliwack is to keep working with CEPCO on their mandate. It means trusting that you have the very best people around the boardroom table, and letting them do the job that you have given them the responsibility to do. In terms of addressing some of the concerns raised about the budget paid to CEPCO (which is publicly available in the City’s financial statements) I ran a comparison with a city roughly the same size as ours – the City of Niagara Falls (pop. 82,000ish) Their internal department (CEPCO equivalent) budgeted $1.8 million for Planning & Business Development- roughly three times more than what is currently allocated to CEPCO. In the past three years CEPCO has brought in millions of dollars to the local economy, paid for infrastructure, purchased and removed the Empress Hotel, and provided a large lead donation to pay for badly needed renovations to the Chilliwack General Hospital. The volunteer board is made up of a diverse cross section of business people from Chilliwack who generously give their time, energy, and ideas to promote Chilliwack as a great place to do business. You can accuse me of bias as a volunteer director – but I challenge anyone opposed to the model to show me better value, and better results for your tax dollars.

 

Phill Bruce

On jobs and investment, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly.  The Good: Previous city council members have done a fairly good job with helping attract business to the City of Chilliwack, the downturn has mainly been because of the economy and not the effort of are city. The Lickman East Industrial Business Park looks like the next phase for the creation of Jobs and investment. The city’s vision is to encourage high density employment.  The Bad: Investment east/west is weak, we must envision, and be part of the provincial, and federal entourage who visit and discuss with Asian and European markets. For too long we have relied on north/south relationships, diversifying our trade agreements will encourage more growth within our city, and the province.  The Ugly:  One downfall we must look at is the removal of the RCMP, for a provincial police force. Chilliwack’s educational base was spearhead by division E of the RCMP. The large amount of education, and training that is done by this division will mean job elimination for many civilians who work on the base.

 

Brenda Currie

I have made a committment to Chilliwack that if elected to city council, I will use my business and negotiating skills to help bring more large companies to our community so that they can provide jobs for our citizens. The key is to actively promote Chilliwack as a great place to bring business.I believe the best way to do this is to aggressively go after large business. We need to attract other big businesses like Stream, Soprema, and Kal Tire. I intend to point out that Chilliwack is within an hour and a half of over 2 million people, our taxes are low, and we have a good solid work force. We have land to build one’s regional operations on, affordable housing prices, and great amenities. I intend to do whatever is necessary and reasonable to help our citizens find great jobs in town and that means bringing more business to the table. Part of being an elected council is to be a strong advocate for our community.

 

Ken Popove

Working closely with the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation and their efforts in the Canada Lands Eduction Park projects. As well as supporting local law enforcement to ensure safety and security, I would encouraging the BIA to do more to make Downtown an attractive place to do business. Chilliwack will continue to increase in popularity as prices continue to rise down the valley. We as council need to ensure we are well represented during the attraction process and are ready to compete.

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