Millroy: Has The EDC Come Full Circle?

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After council voted in December of last year to move employees of the Economic Development  Corporation into city hall and onto its payroll on Jan. 1, I wrote that it appeared the EDC had come full circle.

It started out back in the 1980s with commissioner Doug Leighton and a secretary operating on a budget of $135,000 within the confines of city hall.

Later, after Leighton was no longer on the scene, council in a change of course began to think there was some value in economic development and set up the Economic Development Corporation on a stand-alone basis with its own director.

Council’s move last year seemed to change all that so I questioned Chief Administrative Malcolm White as to how things would work.

“Both the economic development staff and the tourism staff will report through the Community Development & Enterprise Services (CD&ES) area, albeit in separate verticals, as they will be interacting with two different boards (Economic Development Corporation and a new Tourism Development Corporation),” White said.

In a separate reply he said there still will be a Director of EDC and it will be Daniel Hollingsworth (who presently holds the job), reporting to Tom Vair, Deputy CAO, Community Development and Enterprise Services

Somehow I didn’t think Hollingsworth would last all that long in the job, being put in an entirely different, and some would say untenable, position.

And he didn’t. He recently resigned.

I thought this was the final nail in the coffin for EDC, figuring Hollingsworth wouldn’t be replaced and the remaining EDC staff would now work directly under Vair.
But in replying to my question in regard to a replacement, White said he expected Hollingsworth would be replaced.

He said Hollingsworth’s decision to resign and take up another position was unexpected.
“From a broad perspective, we review all positions each time an incumbent moves on,” he said.

“In this case I would expect we will replace the position as we had always intended to retain it.  .

“For the tourism director position, the EDC had tried to fill the position unsuccessfully for some time prior to the transition to the City. We created a new position of director of community development and tourism which oversees the tourism group and the community development component of FutureSSM that is continuing after the FutureSSM initiative ends.
“Travis Anderson was the successful applicant for the position.

“As far as staff complement, there has been no change on the direct EDC and Tourism positions; there has been a reduction in some of the support positions (approximately three). However, the savings will be reallocated to new positions that are more aligned with service needs.”

White said pandemic considerations aside, economic development and tourism remain key focus areas for a healthy economy and growing our community. With the addition of a Tourism Development Corporation board to focus on tourism efforts, the EDC board can be focused on economic development.

“We did undertake to the EDC board at the time of transition to optimize resources rather than reduce them.”

On the EDC’s website it says, “The city’s economic development team supports existing businesses and attracts new businesses through the promotion of our strategic advantages. Our team provides small and youth business support, which includes helping local firms access funding programs for potential expansion or start-up”

I suppose there should be no change in this with the EDC now coming directly under city control and after all, there will be savings.

But I think for some there will still be some concern about seeing the demise of what was once a proud and relatively independent organization.

I MUST ADMIT that although I thought council overreached in turning the reconstruction of Bay Street into a signature project, with the original estimated price tag of $4.9 million being elevated to close to $8 million in the process, it is going to look nice.

But it would have been even nicer if the overhead wires and the poles that carry them had been removed and replaced with underground wiring.

I asked White if there was any consideration given to putting these wires underground as they are quite ugly and the poles are right in the concrete of the sidewalk so any that have to be replaced would require breaking up the concrete.

“We would have liked to, but it wasn’t feasible (or likely possible) to do unless we were doing a full reconstruction which would include all the buried infrastructure, he said.  Hopefully the streetscaping on the project will lessen the impact of still having them present.”

The trees will have to grow in a hurry to do that.

FOR THOSE WHO continue to question the cost of the reconstruction of city hall and the time it is taking, this is the reply I recently got from White:

“For the Civic Centre project – they are getting close to completing the outside work with the exception of the atrium glazing – we are hopeful that won’t cause any more delay than necessary.  “The initial delay in the work was the result of the general contractor, CyRheault, having to replace the initial subcontractor (glazing and exterior panels) with two new subcontractors (one for glazing, one for the panels).

“Our main concern with the project has been the pace of the construction – this has improved considerably as we have worked with all parties to the project including the new subcontractors.  “We will be reporting to council in the near future on some increased costs which are typical items that would be associated with a project of this scope. Other additional costs that may have been incurred related to the project and the time it has taken will not be borne by the City.”

Again, as with Bay Street, I like the new look.

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