Salamanders 1 – Guelph 0

Two summers ago, the Hanlon Business Park was occupied by a group of anarchists determined to stop development of the city-owned property.

The result was to delay completion of the park infrastructure for another year. The focus was on preserving the Jefferson Salamander, a rare and protected reptile. Subsequent investigation by the provincial natural resources people turned up no evidence to support that claim.

As part of its efforts to increase its industrial/commercial assessment, the city commissioned a task force “Prosperity 2020”, to redevelop strategies over the long term to attract business and industrial companies to Guelph.

An independent study by a Markham-based consulting firm revealed that potential growth candidates viewed the municipality as being not friendly toward business. It described the city has being “highly fractious with a number of narrow interests competing for attention.”

With some 43 per cent of jobs employed by the manufacturing base and the university, the consultant stated the ratio was twice the job reliance experienced by the average Ontario community.

The report also reaffirmed the experience of the past 42 months that the property owner segment is unfairly responsible for 84 per cent of Guelph’s property tax revenues.

It remains an unsustainable position for taxpayers. The consultant said the city must reposition itself as a premiere business location for business investment by diversifying its employment base.

Until elected representatives eschew their personal issues and serve all the people of Guelph, nothing will change. It takes political will to attract those high quality businesses engaged in information technology, advanced manufacturing systems and biotechnology. It will require knowledge and courage to rebuild the city’s hobbled economic development reputation and its disproportionate property tax allocation.

Today, the Hanlon Park sits empty of business development, a year after the site was ready.

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