Last week mayoral candidate Scott Nelson announced he would shut down the City’s Business Expansion and Attraction Strategy task force if he becomes mayor. Nelson called the task force a “barrier” that would “create more red tape.”
In September council approved the strategy and task force that would report to council with recommendations before the end of the year.
According to the City, the BEAS will seek input from a range of stakeholders and community partners; the task force will be comprised of individuals with experience from the business community and provide council with recommendations based on their knowledge. The City says the role of the task force would be to become familiar with the BEAS and recommend priorities and approaches to implement various components of the strategy.
However, Nelson said he would cancel the task force.
“I think this is a time when we need to have action,” he said, proposing that he would move the existing economic development office into the mayor’s office, prioritize economic development and maintain the City’s economic development corporation.
Nelson announced he would target $15 million for residential, commercial and industrial building permits in the City in the first year; $20 million in the second and $30 million in the third.
Nelson called those numbers “realistic targets” and said they are achievable if the City “hustles for it.” That approach, he insisted, will be assisted by the boom he foresees in the community in the next five years. That is based on improved highway infrastructure, future mine development, natural gas deposits out west, and a revival of the forest sector.
Nelson added he would target big box stores to be installed in Williams Lake’s southwest end, as well as pursue businesses for the downtown core and for the City’s northend industrial lands.
As for how taxation would fit into Nelson’s economic development strategy, he said he would not be releasing those details for another week.
“I’m a big believer in being very aggressive. Interest rates are at an all-time low right now,” he said. “This is acquisition time. Time to go out and be building your assets; building your communities; building your business and trying to move the ball forward and I think Williams lake is perhaps one of the few in the province that is so well situated.”
Mayor Kerry Cook defended the task force calling it “bigger than the election.”
“We’re asking key people in the community to be a part of this and what we’re doing is shaping the future of economic development in the City.” Cook says by the time the new council is sworn in in December the task force will be ready to make its recommendations to council which, if required, will then be tied to the City’s budget process.
“We need to move this away from ad-hoc decision making and move toward a strategic co-ordinated approach … . I value the expertise in the community and I believe our people are an untapped resource that I really want to be able to continue to tap into in the future.”
Mayoral candidate Walt Cobb said he would not shut the task force down, saying he supported the concept.
“Talking with people is always a good idea,” he said.
According to data provided by the City, building permits in 2007 were valued at $10 million, in 2008 valued at $24 million, in 2009 valued at $26 million and in 2010 at $12 million.