BEDC poised to become land development corp

A proposal is currently on the table for the Burlington Economic Development Corporation to become an incorporated for-profit organization that would have the ability to buy and sell land for commercial development.

Adding land management could facilitate economic growth by speeding approvals, controlling development activities, offering preferential financing and other advantages.

An incorporated BEDC will focus on optimizing the value of city-owned land (eg. downtown parking lots) or purchasing land to increase economic activity.

According to a presentation from city staff and BEDC board members at an April 17 council workshop, a for-profit BEDC Inc. will be best positioned to assemble, acquire and develop land, and to partner with the private sector in order to target and create high-value economic development opportunities that will benefit Burlington residents, in addition to its traditional economic development responsibilities.

BEDC’s goal is to increase the city’s non-residential tax levy ratio from 20% commercial/80% residential, to 30% commercial/70% residential; and bring an additional 1526 jobs per year, half of which would be held by Burlington residents.

The city would remain the sole shareholder and any profit from BEDC Inc. would flow back to city reserves.

A new board and interim president will be recruited and a transition team put into place to switch BEDC’s board and activities over into BEDC Inc.

City council will vote on a motion Mon. April 28 to develop a public engagement strategy and implementation plan on the incorporation proposal, and report back to the Development & Infrastructure Committee May 26.

The proposal also needs approval at the BEDC annual general meeting May 29.

Read the staff proposal here

My Take: I’ve long advocated that BEDC get out of being a self-described “social club” and aggressively pursue business attraction and retention. We need economic development and jobs or residential taxes will increase. That’s because residential taxes don’t cover all the services the new population requires, but commercial taxes pay more than they cost to service. Plus, local jobs means residents have shorter commutes and can work where they live. Repositioning BEDC for land development and ensuring a singular focus on business attraction and retention will help meet our jobs and tax revenue targets. BEDC must shift from “order taker” – its role in the past – to “order maker,” or jobs will go to cities around us in this increasingly competitive environment in the GTA where everyone is chasing the same corporate investment.

Your Take: Got comments or questions about the proposed BEDC Inc. organization and mandate, or the city’s overall economic strategy? Leave a comment below.

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