| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 12, 2012 06:00 am
The chair of St. Albert’s economic advisory committee (SAEDAC), and the president and CEO of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce are giving the city’s latest hiring two thumbs up when it comes to economic development.
Both Ivan Mayer of SAEDAC and Lynda Moffat of the chamber said the hiring of Aaron Latimer last week as the investment attraction manager shows the city is taking economic development seriously.
“I think that just the title of his position sounds to me like it’s very innovative and forward-thinking,” said Moffat. “It sounds like it’s really looking for success so I’m very pleased.”
Latimer’s hiring from the private sector as the right-hand man for Guy Boston, the city’s executive director for economic development, also shows the city wants to get the “right people in the right places,” Mayer said.
“They have the skill sets so that they can talk to developers, potential investors on that higher level, and I think Guy is the right person for that,” Mayer said. “Aaron seems to have the credentials we need. I’m positive. I think it’s a good move.”
Both also lauded the city for taking action, such as designating 700 acres of land to the city’s west for industrial development, hiring Boston and Latimer and doing business differently than they have in the past as signs the city is starting to turn a corner on development.
Mayer pointed to a situation that occurred over the summer that showed changes were taking place at city hall to boost non-residential expansion. At the time the city and Landrex were on the cusp of resolving a long-running dispute over a development agreement for parts of Erin Ridge North that included major commercial tenants such as Loblaw’s and Costco. When Landrex said it needed to get financing from outside Alberta but needed to start site preparations immediately, the city and company worked out an interim agreement that allowed Landrex to start some work while the city waited for the financing to come in.
That, said Mayer, is the kind of action that will make developers realize that St. Albert actually is business-friendly.
“That’s a big move. That restored a lot of faith,” Mayer said. “Other developers watch and see if a community is really business-friendly.”
“It really did indicate the willingness to meet the developers’ needs,” said Moffat,. “Really, that is kind of a departure from being an organization or city or corporation that is inwardly focused.”
It’s too early to put a timeline on success, both agreed. While Mayer says the city’s actions have been overdue for a couple of years, Moffat said the city needs to show consistency.
“We’re seeing constant performance coming from the city and a lot of it, much of it is focused on economic development directly,” Moffat said. “As long as we see that coming, we’ll be here to help in any way we possibly can.”