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Ready, aim, let’s get going on jobs

Burlington Economic Development Corporation OfficeCity council has set aggressive targets to increase jobs and economic activity in Burlington. The Burlington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) has agreed to double the city’s industrial-commercial-institutional tax revenue over 20 years. The focus will be on creating a plan for five employment districts, including the downtown, by the end of 2013. The downtown strategy will include a review of city lands and their potential for development, for example surface parking lots.

To take on this task, the BEDC was to have prepared new organizational structure and transition plan by February 2013. That will be delayed to June.

The BEDC board has already committed to amend BEDC’s operating model and business plan “to create a land development corporation.”

Read their memo to the Development & Infrastructure committee of city council here.

My Take: I’m concerned about the delay in refocusing the BEDC structure to meet the targets set by the city for economic development. We must keep driving the momentum forward. Yes, it is important to plan then act – ready, aim, fire, as the expression goes. But let’s ensure that doesn’t become “ready, ready, and more getting ready to get ready.” The restructuring plan includes a review of the mandate and objectives of the BEDC – those are already known, specifically increasing ICI tax revenue. It’s time now to focus on the best structure to make that happen. I’ve suggested in the past, for example, that the BEDC dispense with networking and fundraising luncheons and other activities to devote all activity to business attraction and retention, and suggested funding in this budget for an additional Business Development Officer. (That was not approved by council).

In terms of activities, becoming a land development corporation, might be an option, whereby the city purchases land to attract or control investment. But that’s probably more of a long term plan. There are quicker wins for development in the short term, by leveraging land we already own (especially in areas like the downtown), and making the case to prospective employers for locating in Burlington.

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

What's your take?