Economic Update Speech to Chamber of Commerce, October 17, 2012

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.  I am pleased to be here with you as we celebrate Small Business Week here in Carleton Place.  This year’s theme, ‘Aim High!  Invest in Your Future’, could very well have been the motto of your Council and Staff over the first half of our term in Council.  We have worked diligently and strategically to move Carleton Place forward in a planned, sustainable, effective manner, and the results are measurable and significant.  Twice in the past year I have spoken to you about Economic Development in our community, and this morning I will update you with the assistance of a PowerPoint presentation created by our new Economic Development Co-ordinator, Jasmin Ralph, who will be speaking later. For the past 11 months, staff and Council, in consultation with the public, have worked on our new Official Plan which sets out the municipality’s general goals and policies for future land use.  We are pleased that the plan is very much made for Carleton Place – many other communities’ OPs have a definite cookie-cutter tone to them.  As just one example, our plan identifies four properties – called the Mississippi District Strategic Properties -  that can and will in the future play a strong role in the redevelopment of the downtown core – the Findlay Foundry property, McArthur Island, DRS property, and the Woolgrowers;  these areas present opportunities for new residential and mixed use residential and commercial development to complement and support the historic Central business District Core of the Town.  Following the acceptance of the OP by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, we will begin work on reviewing the Development Permit Bylaw which implements the goals of the Official Plan through the design of buildings, streetscapes, and landscapes.  For some of you, this is old news, but Carleton Place was the very first community in Ontario to create a Development Permit Bylaw that addresses all designations – residential, commercial and employment lands. Now let’s move along as I present to you a list of accomplishments from an economic standpoint in the second and third quarters of 2012: -          We have completed annexation of thirty acres from Mississippi Mills in the Industrial Park North area; part of this property will become the much-needed snow dump in the near future, and is the chosen site for the Public Works Yard when it moves from its current location within the next 20 years. -          The McNeely Avenue extension which connects Highway 7 and 15 is in preliminary planning stages and has received future support from Lanark County by being taken over as a County Road and commitment to four-laning when needed.  This opens up a significant amount of land for both residential and commercial development, as well as 35 acres of employment land on the west side of Highway 15. -          As well as the usual road construction, we have seen the exciting construction of Mississippi Valley Conservation headquarters on Highway 7 at Roy Brown Park, addition to the Family and Children’s Services complex in Industrial Park South, the redevelopment of McEwen’s Gas Bar, and significant development in Industrial Park North which I will address later. On the horizon is a new Mac’s Milk and Gas bar at McNeely and Coleman,  a drive through Tim Horton’s and Convenience Store at the current Esso Gas Station on Highway 7, a MacDonald’s restaurant on the Thruway property, and a major addition to the Heritage Inn downtown.  -          On the housing front we have had over 60 starts this year including the condos on Coleman, as well as continued building in the Carleton Crossing and Stonewater Bay subdivisions; this is actually a relatively low number, but we are expecting a substantial increase in the next 18 months as Carlgate High, Nu-Globe, Olympia homes, the area of Morris Street between Napoleon and Mississippi Road, Steeplehill, and Cardel along the McNeely Avenue Extension come on board.  Plans are underway for a new Retirement Home in the downtown core on Laura Street, and we expect a major addition to Waterside Retirement Home to begin soon. -          We are all well aware of the fact that thousands of Department of National Defence employees will be moving to the old Nortel complex in the next 4 or 5 years; you’ve all heard me say it before, but Carleton Place is in a prime position to benefit from this move – we are close to the site, are a family oriented community, and housing prices are reasonable.  I can assure you that Arnprior, Kemptville, and Mississippi Mills all see themselves as being equally marketable.  It is important that, hand in hand with the local developers and real estate agent and as soon as possible,  we develop a strategy to market our community directly to this particular group of potential residents.  Carleton Place is very dependent on residential assessment for taxes, and we are all aware of how residential development drives commercial development.  Stay tuned! -          Our downtown area continues to be a concern, but we are heartened by the number of people drawn to the area through the various festivals, and now the permanent seasonal home of the Farmers’ Market at Market Square, as well as the new Carambeck Community Center which houses the Youth Centre, TR Leger Alternate School, Before and After School childcare programs, and rooms available for public use.  Soon to come downtown is a signalized pedestrian crosswalk. -          Now I’d like to speak to you about Scandia Industries in Industrial Park North.  Volundur Thorbjorsson, known to many of us as Wally the Viking, has created an exciting complex of buildings and has plans for more development in Industrial Park North.  Since January, 98 jobs have been created in this complex.  Small start-up companies are attracted to the area and are assisted with choosing a suitable-sized accommodation initially with future expansion in mind as the business grows.  One particular success story is Triacta which relocated here from Almonte and is supplied with materials from Dica and Virtucom Cable Products – this is a great example of one of the synergies discussed in the Doyetech report. -          And now last, but probably most important of all from a long-term economic standpoint, I’d like to speak to you about where we stand with the redevelopment of our hospital.  In June, the Champlain LHIN endorsed the redevelopment plans and the package was sent off to Toronto for consideration.  It is currently at the Capital Planning Branch at the Ministry of Health.  We had expected to hear from them in mid-September, but because ours is a unique plan, it was felt that comments were required from a larger number of experts.  This week, we are taking political action by using lobbyists that I have been able to engage through local political connections on behalf of the hospital.  When I last spoke with you, I told you about how we were working hard to get our ducks in a row so that we were in a position to give a positive start to our Economic Development Co-ordinator.   I am very pleased that we did ensure that the community was ready for her to join the team, and you are going to hear from Jasmin Ralph in a very few moments; I am proud to have served on the team who hired her and I can tell you now that from the very start of her interview she sold herself as being an intelligent, educated, and I have to add – ambitious - young woman with strong skills that will serve our community well. Ladies and Gentlemen, Henry Ford once said, ’If you think you can or think you cannot, you are right!’  As someone who has always viewed the world from ‘I think I can’ - or those who know me well – from an ‘I know I can’ perspective, I have complete confidence that we are on the right track.  We are a great community and continue to aim high and invest in our most promising future.