Gateway to Opportunity

Port Colborne

On Niagara’s South Coast lies the City of Port Colborne, known for festivals such as Flavours of Niagara, Sportsfest and fishing’s 444 International Walleye Tournament, as well as its signature event: The Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival.

Being part of the Niagara Gateway Economic Zone and Centre has created huge potential for the city and Mayor Vance Badawey is taking full advantage of these opportunities to have it become a serious economic force in the region.

The City of Port Colborne offers great sport fishing, recreation trails, beaches, golf, hiking trails, marina and the famous Welland Canal (including Lock 8 – the third largest lock in the world) which runs right up the middle of the city. For people considering a new place to live, the city offers a quality of life second to none.

Mayor Vance Badawey tells of a friend with a company in a metropolitan setting who asked him, ‘In terms of economic development, what can you give me that I cannot get here?’ Vance answered simply, by explaining that along with a business friendly environment, there is quality of life – an employee only has to happily travel for fifteen minutes to get to work, can come home for lunch to be with the kids, can be home in time to have supper with the family, participate with the kids in their extra-curricular activities and volunteer within the community, all in one day.

“It’s not a forty-eight hour life that you get only on Saturday and Sunday; you can actually have a life during the week as well,” he shares. “On top of that, if you want to get something bigger, you are less than one and a half hours from Toronto – or 45 minutes away from a beautiful ski hill like Holiday Valley. It’s not only a great place to do business, but it’s truly where business and lifestyle are a perfect match.”

The city is looking to the future and a main component of that is its knowledge base. In the high schools, students can gain practical experience through co-ops and apprenticeships, enabling them to get a taste of the industry that exists in Niagara and helping to replenish human resources within the skilled trades. Recently, Niagara Catholic District School Board and Algoma Central Corporation signed a partnership agreement that will expand and enhance initiatives and develop career learning opportunities for students within the marine industry in the Niagara Region and abroad. Having two very involved high schools in the community and Niagara College and Brock University only a few minutes away, the city’s economy is confident that their human resource needs are being well looked after.

Mayor Badawey was part of a presentation on Niagara’s South Coast and how Port Colborne is contributing to the overall creation of a better business friendly environment for the Niagara region. “Niagara is really reinventing itself with respect to why anyone should do business here. It is imperative that I mention how it’s not just Port Colborne working in isolation. We are injecting the strengths and the advantages of Port Colborne into the overall Niagara economic strategy. We are just one of twelve partners.” Mayor Badawey recognizes that some businesses may locate in St. Catherines or Niagara Falls – but the city can still benefit from that.

The Province of Ontario, through its Places to Grow, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, recognized the Niagara Gateway Economic Zone and Centre for its importance to the province and Greater Golden Horseshoe region. Planned developments within the zone and centre are designed to increase opportunities for cross-border trade while promoting economic development and tourism.

“We worked hard with the province and, to their credit, they created the Places to Grow Act,” says the Mayor. “Under that act, the city is designated as a Gateway Economic Centre, which enabled the city to offer incentives when competing with other jurisdictions globally to bring economy and business into our area.” Mayor Badawey served as chairman of the Niagara Gateway Economic Zone and Centre Implementation Committee.

This strategy has given Port Colborne, and the City of Welland, the ability to compete for investment with American cities across the border. The Gateway Economic Centre Community Improvement Plans (CIP) aim to create new economic activity for the Gateway Economic Centre by giving investors incentives. One is a tax incentive financing strategy in the Niagara Region’s Gateway CIP which has no taxes for ten years to any company coming in to the area that qualifies. A second element was the waiving of all development charges and fees, for example, building permits. Although these are regional incentives, there is a resulting positive impact on the City of Port Colborne. Additionally, the city, through its Industrial CIP, offers reduction in taxes through its incentive program.

Through this process, the province allowed Port Colborne to offer investors and developers opportunities within the over three hundred acres of newly established industrial lands attached to the Welland Canal. The area is anticipated to be fully serviced in the near future as development occurs and has further available land permitting expansion. The canal allows ship access and the area also has access to a major highway and the nearby rail line as well as an airport only five minutes away. Being attached to a very robust transportation network is what has garnered the “Gateway” designation and made the area attractive to investors. The City of Port Colborne is one of only a few provincially recognized “ports” in Ontario and is within one day’s drive of over 45 percent of North America’s annual income.

It also works in tandem with the federal government in a manner similar to a foreign trade zone. “Although we are not considered a foreign trade zone, there are foreign trade zone-like incentives that are available under the Gateway Strategy. This is compounded by the city’s Brownfield CIP (Brownfield being land previously used for industrial purposes) which offers further incentives for brownfield revitalization and redevelopment, giving those lands the ability to be brought back into productivity.”

Other CIPs are contributing to Port Colborne’s renewal. Six are currently underway, covering eighty percent of the municipality. The infrastructure is already in place which will aid in the redevelopment of two downtown areas and offer direct advantages to the commercial and retail sectors in those areas. Another is the East Waterfront CIP which offers incentives to assist in the redevelopment of retail, commercial and residential properties along Niagara’s South Coast.

“We have invested in re-facing our main street area to the tune of $5.6 million. We built a $32 million Vale Health & Wellness Centre, which offers a slew of health and wellness activities: two rinks, two pools, a running track, fieldhouse, fitness area, bocce courts, community rooms, etc.” This is all nestled within an existing sports complex that has eight soccer fields and four baseball fields. “The key here is that it gave us the ability to leverage funding through our CIPs and we are continuing to do that with our waterfront and gateway lands.”

“From the capital side, we continue to prioritize our existing capital asset management plan with respect to our current assets, but also to put in place a priority list of where we are going with respect to future capital investment and attach an affordability strategy to it.” The community improvement plans identify areas in need of improvement, both functional (like water and sewer systems) and decorative (like street furniture and aesthetic improvements). Further plans include new signage and beautiful new facades in the downtown area.

As much as the city counts on upper levels of government and the private sector to invest, it is also taking a leadership role in investing on its own. Everything from water and wastewater systems to roadways, port facilities, greenscaping, streetscaping, parks and street lighting has seen upgrades. This extends a strong message to the investment community that Port Colborne is open for business.

For more information about Port Colborne, please visit http://portcolborne.ca/

August 18, 2017, 11:31 PM EDT

A Model that Addresses Infrastructure Demand

The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) is a National Union representing over 500 000 members – over 110 000 in Canada with an International Office in Hamilton, Ontario. It has Local Unions across the country and is the most common union of construction, healthcare, waste management, and show service workers in this country. In fact, LiUNA, established in 1903, is Canada’s largest Building Trades Union.