Monday, April 23, 2018

City's Small Business advisory committee to deliver report to Council tonight

After a few delays and closing in on the end of the four year term of office for this current collective of Prince Rupert City council, the Small Business Advisory Committee will deliver a much anticipated Small Business Action plan tonight.

The  committee concept was launched in 2016, with City Council announcing the names of those participating in the project in February of last year 

Among those tasked to develop the report were  Charmayne Carlson, Irene Mills, Marc Page, James Warburton, Brian Musgrave and Craig Outhet who took to their exploring the themes of the city's business concerns over the last fourteen months.

The twenty eight page document released today outlines three key goals for Council members to consider and potentially act on.

1) Easing the tax burden- ensuring tax equity, increasing tax assessment base, and sourcing alternative revenues

2) Encouraging growth -recruiting and retaining skilled labour, retaining local wealth, revitalizing downtown

3) Reducing restrictions - modernizing bylaws, relieving the parking shortage, and fostering a culture of service excellence

In their preamble to the document, the Committee members make note of the guiding notes of City's annual Business Walks, Interim Land Use Policy Framework, City's Five Year Financial Plan and Hays 2.0 vision.

All of which they have used to assist in the plan that they suggest is "designed to set the stage for the municipality to move towards creating a more resilient and sustainable future for Prince Rupert, by creating an environment that is open for business"

First created in January of 2016, the concept of a committee found Council spending the first year of  its existence trying to determine its terms of reference, that was followed by the recruitment of committee members and then the work of the last year to develop their themes of study.

That was followed with a first draft of their recommendations delivered to a City Council workshop with senior staff in November of 2017, providing the Committee with feedback on their work to that point.

Through the last year, the Committee has hosted monthly meetings to discuss common experiences doing business with the City of Prince Rupert, analyzing current policies and bylaws related to small business, before creating a Small Business Development Action Plan  to present to Council.

Many of their recommendations, seem to to dovetail with a large number of City council's most recent discussion points and puts some focus on recent issues raised by both  city staff and Council members.

Something that perhaps is not that surprising considering the range of source material that the Committee has made use of during their study of the city's economic and business climate.

The delivery of the document also has proven to be a timely one, with the Mayor set to host his Hays 2.0 vision update this Wednesday evening at the Lester Centre, perhaps offering an opportunity to share the work of the committee with a wider audience.

As for the report, there are three major goals that are outlined in the document, the first a call to ease the tax burden faced by residents of the city.

Towards that, the committee has offered up three action themes on how to Ensure Tax Equity:

Advocate to the Province to restore the sunset provision of the Port Property Tax Act to ensure that all new port facilities receive a maximum of 5 years with a capped taxation rate and a full years' notice is given to existing port taxpayers. Alternatively, lobby the Province to increase the competitiveness grant to account for depreciation.

Renegotiate a fair Ridley Island Tax Sharing Agreement with the District of Port Edward that includes a shared services agreement in 2018.

 Institute development cost charges to ensure existing ratepayers do not subsidize the cost of the installation of new infrastructure, exempting single family dwellings. Please see Appendix I for more detail.

The Committee will also offer some guidance on how to Increase the Tax Assessment Base, providing five Action  themes for follow up.

Restore Watson Island back to the tax roll by funding the remediating of the property through long-term leases to industrial and logistics partners in the private sector. 

Prepare a Crown Grant Application to acquire provincial land for the purpose of expanding the industrial park. 

Identify and prepare investment packages for the development of new industrial lands on designated municipal properties.

Identify and prepare investment packages for municipal land holdings with the potential for a phase sale or lease program to support new development.

Prioritize the sale of municipally owned single family lots to individuals willing to include authorized secondary suites in the construction of housing.

The Third Objective takes a look at sourcing out of alternative revenues:

Continue negotiating with the provincial government through the Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance to ensure equitable resource revenue sharing similar to the Northeast and Peace regions.

Lease appropriately zoned municipal industrial lands, specifically Watson Island and District Lot 444, through Legacy Inc. with preference to Watson Island.

Work with appropriate public and private partners such as the provincial government, Prince Rupert Port Authority, DP World, and other port partners to create a Wantage Road bypass and industrial logistics area.

Create a naming rights policy to solicit bids from local businesses and corporations for naming exclusive rights on civic facilities with funds to be utilized for capital costs only .

Investigate opportunities to raise additional advertising revenues at civic facilities such as the arena, gymnasium, public transit, etc.

Hire a contract grant writer through Northern Development Initiative Trust.

The remaining pages of the document outline a number of goals towards encouraging growth in the community, each  of those Goals include their own action lists for consideration some with a few recommendations, others with a much larger overview of what the city should do to address the concerns.

The Goals include:

Help recruit and retain skilled labour

Retain Local Wealth

Revitalize Downtown

When it comes to reducing restrictions on businesses in the community, the Committee offers up three more goals, along with a list of action plans to further that ambition:

Modernize Bylaw

Relieve the Parking Shortage

Foster a Culture of Service Excellence

The report wraps up with recommendations on three business related themes

Development Cost Charges Bylaw

THAT the City of Prince Rupert institute development cost charges consistent with the BC Ministry of Community Services Best Practices Guide to ensure that existing ratepayers do not subsidize the cost of new infrastructure developments.

Property Tax Revitalization Bylaw

THAT the City of Prince Rupert introduce a tax incentive revitalization program for land and improvements with a term of up to 10 years, for the rehabilitation of vacant lots, brownfield sites, and existing buildings in the Downtown and Cow Bay Development Permit Areas.

Business Welcome Package

THAT the City of Prince Rupert introduce a welcome package for new business entrants to Prince Rupert including but not limited to the above listed elements.

You can read the full report and get a preview of tonight's presentation to Council from the City's Agenda package, with the document starting on Page 8.

We will find out which topics resonate most with the Council members shortly after the 7PM start time for this evenings City Council session.

The Committee managed to do much of its work this year and through 2017 out of the spotlight, with few mentions of the project made at City Council sessions

A look back at the early path towards the delivery of the Committee's document can be found below:


February 8 -- Council makes Board Appointments official at Monday session


For a look at the state of the Northwest Business sector see our archive page here.

A wider overview of City Council discussions can be found from Council archive page here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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