A local blogger has asked all the candidates for their thoughts on economic development and our vision for Town. Here are my answers:
Question #1: What can the members of town council do to promote economic development and attract new business initiatives to our community?
Other than voting for economic development initiatives around the Council table, ensuring a one-stop-shop experience for potential investors, and empowering staff to aggressively pursue development opportunities, members of Council can do their part by promoting the Town, its businesses and our many attributes at every turn and with every means at their disposal.
I have used my blog, my quarterly digital newsletter and multiple social media platforms to relentlessly champion this community over the past four years. This Town has an incredible story to tell and I have used my skills as a former journalist to share it with the world. I will continue celebrating our Town’s successes in my second term, building a buzz for Amherstburg and enhancing our reputation as an incredible community with stunning waterfront views, a bustling downtown and an unrivalled quality of life.
I’m a firm believer in the economic benefits of Open Air Weekends. It has been a driver of downtown revitalization and will be a key factor in allowing a hotel to flourish in the core. We need to keep enhancing and promoting Open Air as it attracts tourists who spend money in our stores and restaurants. Open Air has yet to realize its incredible potential. Once a hotel opens, visitors will spend two days here instead of two hours and we will really begin to experience the economic benefits of tourism.
We can maximize that tourism potential by working with a developer to transform Belle Vue into a conference centre that attracts visitors year round and by revitalizing the Duffy’s property with a transient marina, expanded fishing space and public plaza. A conference centre would support a hotel as well as provide year-round business to our restaurants and coffee shops.
As a councillor, I would support the finalization of a Community Improvement Plan encompassing the former General Chemical property to allow our municipality to incentivize the sort of industrial development that would dramatically expand our tax base. That property has so much potential, especially with the new battery plant and the construction of the Gordie Howe bridge, and a CIP focused on clean industrial development can help us maximize it.
As well, the completion of the Bell Fibre project means we can now market Amherstburg as an ideal location for remote workers looking for high-speed internet along with a high quality of life and work to attract firms connected to the emerging financial and technical cluster in Detroit.
Question #2: What is your vision for Amherstburg? Where do you see Amherstburg in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
Amherstburg needs to grow our population and assessment base and maximize our tourism potential if we are to remain a standalone municipality that offers residents quality services and amenities at affordable levels.
We have to manage that growth carefully to ensure we don’t sacrifice the small-town charm that makes Amherstburg so special, but we need more people to pay for the things we share, like parks and roads. We also need more people to support commercial growth so we have more places to shop and work.
We have to plan these developments carefully to protect the environment and to ensure there is adequate infrastructure to handle traffic and rainfall events. We need to ensure there are active transportation corridors, greenspace, playgrounds and minimal impact on existing neighbourhoods.
Responsible growth like this coupled with prudent financial management will allow us to finally have minimal debt and healthy reserves. It will provide us the flexibility to invest in a Community Improvement Plan to incentivize industrial development so we can leverage the potential of the former General Chemical lands and truly expand our tax base.
Over the longer term, Open Air Weekends will have cemented itself as a premier and permanent event. It will continue to fuel economic development and allow one hotel and hopefully two to flourish. It will complement a revitalized Duffy’s property, which will feature a transient marina, expanded fishing space and a public plaza. Open Air will also operate on key weekends during River Lights, enhancing year-round tourism.
The Town will have worked to develop the rear portion of the Belle Vue property to provide housing for seniors and generate money to transform the historic house into a convention centre that will promote year-round tourism while supporting a hotel and generating business for our restaurants. Belle Vue will be the bookend to an historic mile stretching to Fort Malden.
We will have followed the recommendations of our Fire Master Plan and built a moderately-priced fire hall at the Libro Centre. There will also be an enhanced skate park and BMX pump track there to complement the Big Creek Trail, dog park, pool and pickleball hub at the Libro, which will host tournaments, with players and their families staying at hotels in Town.
We will also be well on our way improving other parks, with tennis courts and a basketball court near the high school and improvements under way at Jack Purdie Park, Malden and Ranta, where I support a boat ramp and kayak launch. We will have reconstructed Concession Road 2 North with paved shoulders and worked with the County to install paved shoulders on Middle Side Road.
A 160-bed long-term care home will have been built next to Community Hub, which will be generating rental revenue and have even more services for our most vulnerable residents. As well, our regional transit project will have been a success and there will be more stops in Amherstburg, linking our communities together.
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