Posted January 31,2014
After seven years and $40 million later, the city-owned Hanlon Business Park is almost vacant. The city has dumped millions in the project with only a smidgen of return for its investment.
Peter Cartwright, general manager of economic development, who is responsible for attracting businesses to set up shop in the city, admitted before council: ”I don’t think we’re setting the world on fire.”
You have to give him credit for honest understatement.
Coun. Bob Bell revealed the $40 million number during a proposal to lower the development charges (DC) on industrial projects from $12.27 per square foot to a new blended rate of $9.09. This rate would apply to both industrial and commercial/institutional development.
An amendment proposed by Coun. Cam Guthrie would set the industrial development charges rate at $6.54 a square foot and $12.61 for commercial/institutional development. It was supported by Coun. Bob Bell, Jim Furfaro and Leanne Piper but was defeated by the Farbridge majority.
Cartwright, said that the old rate of 12.27 was hard to manage because the category of development seemed to confuse the staff when processing. What did they do? Flip a coin?
The real problem exists within the management of the economic development department. In seven years, of “not setting the world on fire,” the industrial commercial assessment ratio has not budged above 16 per cent of all city assessment. That is not a ringing endorsement of a department and its manager.
Further, by dropping the DC rate that is still higher than the surrounding municipalities, does nothing to encourage new development in the park. Remember the Maple Leaf foods proposal? Well, that project went south and is now settled in Puslinch adjacent to Guelph and the Hanlon Park.
In seven years if this administration is unable to attract businesses to a developed park designed to create assessment and jobs, do you really believe the same players will accomplish it in the next four years?
This is yet another example of wasteful spending by a council trusting a staff to do its job. All they can do is make excuses while the citizens see the indebtedness on this project continue to escalate.