Morinville candidates tackle economic development

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Morinville residents have until Oct. 18 to decide who will represent them on town council. In the first instalment of a three-part series, the Gazette asked candidates for their views on economic development.

Reponses are edited only for spelling, grammar and length. The Gazette does not vouch for the accuracy of candidates’ statements.

Question . . .

Morinville has recently seen the loss of several local businesses, including Brightside Hobbies, Fields and the Movie Gallery. More than 90 per cent of the town’s property tax assessment currently comes from residential properties. Do you believe Morinville has a problem with business attraction and retention and what would you do to address it?

David Pattison

The loss of any business in Morinville is cause for concern. The types of businesses, which have recently closed are essential in our community. To be successful in attracting new businesses, it is the existing businesses that are critical in showing a strong business environment.

As a town councillor I would recommend that a business retention and expansion initiative be undertaken immediately by administration. This would be initiated seeking the support of the Morinville District Chamber of Commerce.

The business retention and expansion approach is used globally. It promotes job growth by helping communities learn about issues of, as well as opportunities for, local businesses and set priorities for specific actions to address these needs. Anticipated results include: development of a more business-friendly attitude, new local investment, more jobs, saved jobs, and fewer barriers to business development.

A broader industrial/commercial base is critical to the sustainability of Morinville.

Paul Krauskopf

Morinville has lost businesses in the past year, however in the closing of Movie Gallery that was a nationwide corporate decision and Fields was apparently the issue of increased rents and no suitable location to relocate.

Presently the town is having difficulty attracting new business, however as our population continues to increase I believe business will come. I would like to see the establishment of a committee — Morinville Economic Development and short of that I definitely think we need to work on a solid economic development strategy with the help of experts done quickly but effectively with immediate implementation.

We could perhaps look at successes in other municipalities large or small and incorporate those that would work for Morinville. I also think that a regional economic plan would be of benefit to Morinville. There needs to be dialogue with council, business, industry, consumers and our neighbours.

Donna Phinney

Yes, Morinville currently has a problem with this. One of the problems that we cannot escape is our proximity to St. Albert and Edmonton and their many amenities we cannot afford to provide our residents.

We want new businesses throughout Morinville to be able to thrive and be viable long term. I truly believe that over the next few years if the residential starts stay as healthy as they have this will change in our favour.

We have seen this over the past couple of years with the addition of Tim Hortons, Extra Foods, Lube Ex … business will come as our population grows. The next council will have to work closer with the chamber members in making sure this is a priority. We also need to acquire industrial serviced land so that could offset the tax split some, but also bring much needed employment to the town. Which in turn means a healthier community on the whole.

Gordon Boddez

I believe that one of the more important issues facing Morinville is that only seven per cent of Morinville’s tax base comes from business/industry. This is one of the worst business/residential tax bases of towns our size in Alberta. This issue has got to be one of the top priorities of Morinville’s next council. There are a number of ways this can be addressed. One way is to open an additional industrial park in Morinville. Another is to create a more integrated, creative approach to attracting business with Sturgeon County.

With respect to several businesses closing in Morinville, I have observed that businesses open and close for a variety of reasons. Fields for example (and SAAN’s before) did not close primarily due to lack of sales in Morinville.

Kerry Knight

I believe the problem of business attraction and retention is multi-faceted. The problem can be addressed by encouraging business-to-business promotion and marketing within the town and the county.

We need to be a complete community that offers professional services, recreational amenities as well as commercial and industrial business. We also need to improve and market what we have by creating more continuity in appearance with things like signage or facades. The new light posts on 100th Street have already added continuity and street appeal in Morinville; businesses can build on that concept.

Residents require a consistent high quality level of service; business owners can count on referred customers if they maintain a superior service level. The town needs to attract people first and the people will attract new business.

Nicole Boutestein

It is truly unfortunate these businesses are no longer here serving our community. Please keep in mind some of these were corporate closures beyond the town’s control.

The fact small independent businesses are closing their doors and local residents are now unemployed should be a wake-up call. I have talked with several business owners in Morinville and there is a consensus the town needs to be friendlier to business development. Red tape is causing some entrepreneurs to look elsewhere. Morinville simply cannot afford this. We need to attract new and support existing business owners to make us a more sustainable community.

Strategies could include:

• Reduced or deferred property taxes for the first 12 months of construction on new commercial businesses,

• Offer existing businesses beautification incentives,

• Improved communication with business owners and Morinville’s planning and development department,

• Higher taxes on undeveloped commercial lots,

• Advertise business incentives publicly.

Morinville needs to take a hard look at its approach to the business community.

Lisa Holmes

Small retail businesses define the character of a community and encouraging the growth of Morinville’s small businesses, primarily within existing retail space, should be one of the town’s top priorities.

Primarily the town needs to work with our existing businesses to maintain economic vitality. Established businesses should be encouraged to grow within Morinville, creating jobs and capital investments within the community. New businesses are essential to the growth and sustainability of our community and having diversity in the type of businesses allows for tax-base stability in times of economic fluctuation.

Improving on the quality of life for Morinville’s residents and creating strong partnerships with the chamber of commerce, Rotary Club and other business organizations will create a community that becomes an attractive package to commercial investors and their families. Most importantly, shop locally, be aware of the impact that your money has in the local economy and support Morinville’s businesses.

Lucie Roy

In less than 20 years, over 40 businesses have come to Morinville. Once a business is located here and after the grand opening is done, the residents need to support them and not wait for the closing out sales.

How many shopped for the first time at Brightside Hobbies and Fields during their closing out sale? How many know you can purchase pet food at the vet clinic or the Bag’n Block Agri Centre in Morinville? How many shop at Guardian Drugs?

With this trend I have three questions (yes or no) that I would like to see at voting time: Do we want industry, do we want any more businesses or want to be a bedroom community?

Once a decision is made as to the direction Morinville residents want to proceed, it can be done as a unified community. If yes, there is a shop local campaign, implementation of a business and customer retention strategy.

Jackie Luker-Chevalier

According to information I received from the town, Morinville issues several new business licenses each month. For this reason I’m not sure we have a significant problem attracting new business.

Certainly we need more business but I think the greater problem is retention. Somehow we need to change the shoppers’ attitudes, businesses and local industry. I think providing incentives for all parties results in a win-win situation for everyone.

Support of town events and programs by local business and industry shows us they are dedicated to the community. More businesses need to be seen doing this. For the consumer, yes you can save money at big box stores, but is it worth it when you’ve paid for gas, stopped for lunch and spent more than you had planned because of one-stop shopping?

In the end did you save money or spend more? Retention will be a difficult problem to solve but it’s a business, local industry and consumer issue. It’s about compromise, attitudes and community support.

Candidate and current councillor Ben Van De Walle did respond to repeated queries from the Gazette.

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