The Progress asked candidates this week how council could be a catalyst for economic development in Chilliwack, attracting even more jobs and investment.
This is what they had to say:
We must make sure there are no barriers at City Hall. When business is looking to relocate to Chilliwack we must ensure that we are easy to do business with. We are well known for not wasting time with too much red tape and bureaucracy but we can always improve. Employers struggle with getting great long term employees. It is very important that we have a wonderful community and quality of life in Chilliwack so that employers have no trouble attracting and keeping staff. Our business tax rate is crucial to attracting economic development and ours is one of the lowest around. We are ‘Open for Business’ in Chilliwack and I intend to keep it that way if I am re-elected.
Keeping work close to home should be a major concern, moderate, or higher paying jobs are more likely to keep people in this community without having to commute, or even the worst case scenario, people move on because of the lack of quality work opportunities within this community. How do we entice high tech industry and manufacturing industry to set up shop in this community?
Burger King amalgamation, with Tim Hortons is a great example of our inviting tax laws, and economic environment, that could work with other American Businesses relocating to this community. That window of opportunity would probably have a time limit of 3-4 years till are American friends nail down there tax inversion laws. Also the Promotion of small business, that is already established, and start-up firms cannot be ignored. In conclusion supporting families through strong economic growth by creating well-paying jobs in this community will promote a positive business environment, because that’s the key to helping families prosper.
CEPCO is supposed to be a complement to City Council that has been trying to boost economic activity since it was formed in September 1998.
In addition the City of Chilliwack Council can lower the taxes on businesses by reducing the mill rate.
What brings a business here is the cost of doing business in Chilliwack. You attract business by lowering those costs.
We must ensure there is little regulatory burden on businesses to lower their costs and that the regulatory costs of doing business is streamlined. Tax incentives, government investments and infrastructure improvements encourage growth. The goal is to target the areas needed (site selection ) for development and growth, eventually shifting an area like our downtown core into revitalized segments of the city. Council can look into tax increment financing, which is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure and other community improvement projects. That financing is based on the expected future revenue that will be generated by the increased property value of the real estate – which of course then generates additional tax revenue for the City of Chilliwack.
I believe education is key. Council should have a good understanding of the work that CEPCO does for the community. Due to my background I know the hard work that goes into economic development. I am a good promoter of our community and I speak the language. We need to show the community what CEPCO does for the community and its goals.
I have a background in promoting and building organizations as well as zoning and land development in our community and I will use those strengths to promote economic development in Chilliwack. We need to let everyone know we are leaders in economic development and the benefits are job creation.And that is huge!
We have to keep taxes and fees low; streamline business and building applications or rezoning applications to a level faster than any other municipality in the fraser valley, and give start-up incentives ensuring there are valuable and long term benefits for Chilliwack.
City Council can promote Chilliwack as a desirable place to live and work through policies around Youth involvement, public art, green initiatives, heritage preservation, and improved access to nature such as the Mt. Cheam trailhead. City Council must be ambassadors of the community and its biggest cheerleaders.
CEPCO already does the job of representing the City of Chilliwack and is responsible for its economic growth and marketing. Given the impressive number of small and medium sized independently-owned businesses that exist here it would appear that CEPCO is indeed doing its job.
Well, first of all, you assume that CEPCO is an entity that should continue. CEPCO has been funded for many years by the taxpayers. This has been an unnecessary expenditure based on the assumption that CEPCO has been a worthwhile expense. I very much doubt this. I have seen a volunteer entity in another city of comparable size bring is millions in new business investment at no cost to the taxpayer. Meanwhile, here in Chilliwack, CEPCO has assets of almost 14 million dollars. I have been asking for years whether or not this city benefits from this arrangement; and I have yet to receive an answer. We need a completely volunteer group ( and I would volunteer to participate) that works with city council to identify downtown urban renewal needs. We don’t need to spend even more money in hiring a European consultant to tell us what we know ourselves.
I strongly believe that if we carefully and strategically market Chilliwack and what Chilliwack can do for ‘you’, investors will more inclined to invest in our city. In my opinion, one of the things we need to do is to work closely with the BIA and develop major events to showcase what Chilliwack has to offer. These events needs to be spectacular enough to entice people from other cities to come and visit us, and interesting enough to give Chilliwack some media attention. For an example every year in Vancouver there is an event called Diner en Blanc, to attend to this event tickets must be purchased in advance, you must dress in all white, and it’s a prestigious dining experience where you’re able to socialize with anyone and everyone. The atmosphere of the event and all that they have to offer is constantly tweeted about on Twitter and captured through Instagram, therefore creating media attention. What I suggest is Chilliwack do something similar but with local food from our farmers, using our natural landscape as the venue, and having local businesses to cater and thus giving them a chance to showcase themselves.
Chilliwack is known as very pro-business and has a very welcoming attitude towards businesses beginning or relocating here. Historically our taxes have been low, and companies and businesses want to be here. Giving credit to past and current councils, along with CEPCO’s hard work, we need to continue building on this. We see a lot of benefit already with the new site for UFV and new industrial properties being developed such as Progress Way and the old Cattermole site, and in the past decade thousands of jobs have been created here with several large companies choosing Chilliwack as the place to be versus other areas in the Lower Mainland. We need to take successes of the past and keep building on them, but also prepare for infrastructure requirements that come along with it. In the Lower Mainland we see most people moving east versus west and this will most likely continue with our relative affordable housing. We want people to live here but also work and build their careers here.
Council can do the following; commit to keeping our taxes and fees low. Businesses looking to invest in our community require certainty. I have always advocated for a competitive tax environment as one of the best ways to attract and retain job creators. We can facilitate future growth by ensuring well-maintained services and infrastructure. As your City Councillor I have supported key infrastructure upgrades to roads, water, sewer, dyking and drainage. Finally, we need to continue to cultivate a culture of accessibility and expedient customer service at City Hall. I understand the importance of maintaining excellent working relationships within our local business community and beyond, and I am committed to promoting Chilliwack as a great place to live, work, and thrive.
Chilliwack was identified as being the “most business friendly community 2012”, at that time I was Executive Director of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce. I believe that Council needs to be working collaboratively with local, provincial and national stakeholders, staying on top of emerging opportunities that will help bring about sustainable economic development and financial stability for the coming years. I also strongly believe that we need to put more support into representing the businesses that we currently have. A strong economic foundation supports growing businesses and investing in people by increasing access to demand-driven skills training (including literacy and numeracy). We also need to ensure that we have attractive taxation and incentives to attract and retain business. These are some of the realistic, practical building blocks for creating a stable operating environment – it is critical for these building blocks to be founded on trust, dialogue and transparency.
There are three initiatives that the city council could be a catalyst for the economic development, which will complement the CEPCO activities.
Firstly, to promote the city through TV, paper and other online advertisement. Showcase in these advertisements why people would want to live, invest and visit Chilliwack, which all in turn would stimulate economic development. Secondly, challenge CEPCO to look at their mandate and focus on certain main areas. For example; If you look at CEPCO’s website, it is dull, vague and not updated very often. It highlights everything in one shot. The website should be vibrant, eye catching and each section should have a 2-3min video showcasing just the specific target areas specific to that topic within the section. Thirdly the City should showcase more the benefits and key points that make Chilliwack the place to be. Showcase all the staffing opportunities the city has to offer and not hide them in a brochure that’s hidden away on the bottom of CEPCO’s website.
Continue of course our maintaining low taxes and a debt free status. We need to continue to reach out into the business communities beyond our Chilliwack borders to promote to them that we are business friendly we are open for business. That Chilliwack is a great place to live work and play. We can work more closely with organizations like our Chamber of Commerce so that we can jointly continue to present our positive messaging of what a great opportunity it is to do business in Chilliwack. Continue with plans like the downtown revitalization as this sends a very strong message to the broader business community that Chilliwack is a place that they would want to invest in as the city is thinking and planning ahead for development and growth. With that development and growth means a stronger economy which brings with it more jobs and investment.
As city council we will collaborate not only with Walas Concepts but with the people of Chilliwack, the residents, the business owners, and the real estate agents to create a downtown that is muilti-use, that is made by the people, for the people.
In addition to the work of CEPCO the City of Chilliwack needs to nurture a stable business environment where owners feel confident re-investing and expanding their operations locally and attracting outside business to choose Chilliwack. This environment includes good value for low taxes, available and affordable industrial/commercial lands, reliable and cost effective utilities, good transit and free flowing transportation, affordable homes for employees and great recreational facilities and opportunities. While external to our core municipal mandate, part of City hall’s role in maintaining an attractive environment is working closely with our provincial counterparts in ensuring first rate local healthcare, education opportunities at all levels and regional interconnectivity/access to markets.
Chilliwack needs to look at producing a Long-term Strategic Economic Plan. We currently have our Official Community Plan (OCP) that looks at Chilliwack mostly from a land use and demographic perspective, however I do not believe this current document is sufficient. A forward looking economic plan would help to lay the vision for the City that we hope to have in the future, and allow us to then put in place the groundwork to build that vision. What percentage of our economy will be agriculture? Retail? Industry? Or Tourism? With a plan in place we will be able to give security to prospective business interests in Chilliwack by showing them how their business idea fits into our master plan.
As well tourism is a budding industry in Chilliwack and we need to be promoting our natural assets to attract visitors, as well as the businesses that will service their experience.
Invest in technology infrastructure and tools for building with new/emerging technologies. Our city (and others) should not be reliant upon businesses for these vital pieces to a growing amount of our future needs. I believe a maker space will be standard in every city, the faster we get one the sooner we start benefiting. We should be investing in network infrastructure, both wired and wireless (cellular) as well as a city based data center. We are also close enough to Vancouver and the US that we should easily be able to get people and investments coming here quickly once these types of upgrades/systems are in place.