Speech to Carleton Place BIA Annual General Meeting – January 26, 2012

By Mayor Wendy LeBlanc Thursday, January 26, 2012 (Check against delivery) Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It’s been a year since I had the opportunity to speak with you as a collective group and at that time, I outlined our vision and our plans, not only for the downtown, but also the community in general. Just last month at the final council meeting of our first calendar year in office, we were pleased to be able to check off an impressive list of accomplishments. A thriving local economy is one of the greatest benefits that a Council can offer to its community – both its citizens and its businesses. And, even though the municipality per se does not create a great number of jobs, the focus of council, its vision, its decisions, its supporting staff, its investments in infrastructure – to name just a few - have a significant impact on the present, and more importantly, the future economic strength of the community. There are many definitions of the current buzz-word “sustainability’ but the one that I keep as my guiding principle is that ‘the decisions we make today must have a positive impact on the economic, social, and environmental future of our town. That view of sustainability makes Council – and its partners – even more accountable for responsible management of our resources. And that is what I would like to focus on for the next few minutes this evening …firstly, responsible management of our resources, and, second, the partnership the Town has with the BIA. Ladies and gentlemen, each of the seven members of the Council included Economic Development in their platform during the 2010 election campaign. Since that time we have worked to ensure, on the advice of our Senior Staff, that our dollars spent on economic development are ones that will truly benefit the community. To that end, we have worked to acquire more industrial land in Industrial Park North and have created a tentative plan of infrastructure development for that area. We are currently investigating the acquisition of another approximately 30 acres for employment lands within the town boundaries. In order to make realistic and feasible decisions about future growth – both industrial/commercial and residential – we hired Stantec to study our sewer and water capabilities and to make recommendations on areas of future growth based on these infrastructure capabilities; this report is also necessary as we position ourselves to carry out a review of the Official Plan and the Development Permit Bylaw over the course of the next 6 months. We have completed annexation of properties from Beckwith Township; these include several hundred acres east of McNeely Avenue and south of Cavanagh Road earmarked for future residential growth. A significant annexation for the immediate future was that of Roy Brown Park located at the end of Lake Avenue West and over to Highway 7. Four acres is to be sold to Mississippi Valley Conservation for its new headquarters building and the remaining 30 acres will be developed in future as parkland for the community. Additionally, we hired Doyletech to develop an Industrial Strategy and Downtown Corridor Enhancement Plan. Many communities in Eastern Ontario have hired Economic Development Officers, and there appear to be many similarities from one community to another with regards to their strategies. We were very conscious that we did not want a cookie-cutter approach and hired this company based on their innovative plan to look at Carleton Place in a different light and create a plan that best reflects the needs of our community. Doyletch has recently presented their findings, including suggested terms of reference for our Economic Development Officer, who is to be hired at the end of this first quarter of 2012. Money has been spent and money will be spent to ensure the economic future of our town. What we have done and must do – it is absolutely imperative – in the future is to leverage as much out of each dollar as we possibly can, spreading the effect as widely as we can, and ensuring that we all benefit from dollars spent. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s make a dime do the work of a dollar. And let’s make certain that our human resources – our staff members, our politicians, our volunteers, our business people, our business organizations – are engaged to provide maximum benefit to the Town. That is responsible management of our resources. Now, those of us who have been on Council or are long-time members of the BIA are aware of Council’s continuing investment in our downtown and support of the BIA, and I believe it is important for those of you here this evening who may not be aware of this investment just what it entails. The Town provides the actual office space and staff support for book-keeping for the BIA free of charge; there is priority snow-removal for downtown and priority garbage and blue box pick-up, daily street-cleaning and emptying of litter containers, watering and maintenance of floral arrangements, paying for and maintaining floral areas including the Canadian Tire Gas Bar bed, those flanking the parking lots on Bridge Street, at the Town Hall, and others, financing half the façade improvement program, and providing free off-street parking . As well, the BIA benefits from Community Enrichment grants to assist with parades and events. Additionally, in the past year alone, the Town revitalized the Beckwith and Lake Avenue corner with the Market Square and reconstructed Beckwith Street, established a Downtown Initiatives Sub-committee and engaged the consulting firm Doyletech to produce the Downtown Corridor Study recently completed and presented to the Community Development Committee. While this support comes generally with no strings attached, it comes as a tangible recognition of the BIA’s investment in our heritage commercial downtown. The BIA promotes the entire town in its advertising campaigns, it draws residents and tourists alike to the area through its outstanding festivals such as Lambsdowne, Bridge Street Bazaar, Maskeraide Parade, and Santa Claus parade, and its beautification activities including pitch-In week, the floral displays and winterlights program. The BIA supports many community organizations through its partnerships with such groups as Carleton Place in Bloom, the Sister City Committee, the Food Bank, the Farmers’ Market, and Arts Carleton Place to name just a few, and is now the go-to site for up-to-date information about community-wide events. In other words, the two organizations, the Town and the BIA, have worked together in partnership for long time. Just last June, the BIA presented to Council the paper Towards a Vibrant Downtown Core. I see this as a pivotal moment in the relationship between Town and BIA. Because, instead of presenting ideas that could be described – unkindly, yet truthfully – as old wine in new bottles, it presents a Plan of Action for retail recruitment with two components – Team and Tool Building and Marketing the Downtown. It implicitly challenges the BIA to entertain different ideas, to take bolder actions, and to work as stronger leaders. The paper states that ‘eventually we would like to work more closely with the Town Government to better integrate what we are doing with the Town’s general goals of economic development’ and speaks to ‘merging the BIA and Town’s goals for revitalization of the downtown core’. Since that time, the Downtown Initiatives Committee, a sub-committee of the Community Development Committee has been formed and I’d like to think of this as the beginning of a change in identifying and addressing the issues of revitalizing the downtown and that the change will come from a carefully devised plan of action to achieve a goal – and that is, to create – or perhaps better, re-create – a Vibrant Downtown. The two words that I see here as fundamental are change and action. The summary statement of the Doyletch report is significant: Carleton Place is at a crossroads with strong opportunity, but substantial redevelopment is needed to make the downtown corridor vibrant again. The report lays out both tactical and strategic recommendations that will require a more dynamic approach to the issue than what has been carried out in the past. Ladies and gentlemen, the future success and prosperity of our downtown needs change. It needs strategy. It needs commitment. It needs action. It needs responsible management of scarce resources. It needs accountability. Your Council has committed through its vision, decisions, and investments to work with the members of the BIA. Let us all embrace the necessity and the spirit of working together in a new and different way as we reach for the goal of creating something of value to our entire community and truly re-inventing our heritage downtown commercial core. Acknowledging the necessity for change and implementing change is always difficult. Who’s up for the challenge?