Growing economic prosperity by adding value

November 18, 2013


So while local media was focussed on the Overtime Audit last week, a very important report was received by committee and is quietly making its way to Council on for November 25.

Yet, the report has far greater implications for the future economic prosperity of our community and financial position of the City of Guelph than the overtime audit.

While cost-side management is necessary in any business, it is not a sufficient business strategy in today’s economy to thrive – certainly not for cities.

To prosper, cities must seek new ways to add value to existing assets.

  • For example, we have invested millions of dollars in our Wastewater Treatment Facility over the years.  Recent optimization of its operations is allowing us to run the city on about half of the built infrastructure. We have effectively doubled the value of this asset to the community.

The mysterious report that I am speaking about demonstrates we are well on the way to increase the value of another asset – that is to say to increase the tax base of the downtown by 3 to 4 times in less than 20 years.

It’s this kind of tax base that will fund community centres, pools, libraries and other services in all parts of our city. That’s why we think of the downtown as an engine of growth and differentiation for the city.  It is why it is one of six pillars of our economic development strategy.

We have made a number of public sector investments in the downtown including upgrading core infrastructure, Market Square, Guelph Central Station and the Guelph Civic Museum. We have been able to do this through strong management of our capital investment strategy and our success in competitive federal and provincial funding programs.

Our investment has leveraged over $85 million in private sector investment – including the Gummer Building, Western Hotel and the Stewart Mill, River House and Market Commons condominiums – with more on its way.

We have been working on the strategic planning and policy underpinnings for the last 3 years, and now we are beginning to roll. The platform for downtown development is in place and working.

However, the report makes it clear, we need to take further steps to ensure momentum is sustained.  There are many risks to our community if we don’t.  The business case to grow the value of the downtown will come early in 2014.

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About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

View all posts by Karen Farbridge

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