Platform – Part 3 – Economic Development

Something that gets overlooked when we discuss all the new infrastructure growth is the fact that it is all government spending.  While the buildings and new services are nice, what many in our region want is access to new industries and the private development that comes with it, and City Council needs to work harder in this area.  The work done to develop the nGen business incubator will bear fruit, but interactive gaming is a small industry.

Brock University is planning to build the Niagara Health and Bioscience Research Complex.  The city should be finding ways to team with Brock and Niagara College in this area, with an eye to developing a business incubator geared towards biotech and biomanufacturing firms.  Incubators provide expertise, space, funding advice and other resources for companies to get off the ground, and biomanufacturing could be to St. Catharines in the 21st century what auto manufacturing was in the 20th.

In addition to his, City Council needs to move away from the idea of ‘putting all our eggs in one basket’.  GM provided thousands of jobs in the past, but we can no longer look to one employer to provide for the whole city; we need to attract different industries to the city to protect against downturns in any one of them.

The city needs to redevelop its economic development strategy so that it focuses not just on the downtown core, but on St. Catharines as a whole.  Consultation needs to take place between city hall and various stakeholders: Brock and Niagara College, local union and labour groups, business associations and the Chamber of Commerce.  We need to identify what it is we have to offer industry, and then aggressively market to it.

Our first step of the larger economic development plan should be to listen to the businesses we already have.  A report was recently released that surveyed independent business owners and found over half of the owners surveyed feel poorly served by local government.  For our job outlook to improve, business owners need to be consulted to figure out where the city needs to improve in attracting new business.

I originally got involved in this election because I wanted to build a City where my son would choose to live when he grows up.  For this to be a reality, we need more jobs, and City Council needs to endorse policies that support job growth.  Younger residents need to have access to opportunity if we are going to retain them in St. Catharines.

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