Wool­wich pledges $250,000 to re­gional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment group

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE KANNON

HAV­ING AL­READY DUMPED $160,000 into a re­gional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment scheme, Wool­wich is now in for another $250,000, coun­cil­lors hav­ing this week signed on for another five years with lit­tle dis­cus­sion.

The Water­loo Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion is a joint ven­ture be­tween the Re­gion of Water­loo and its seven-mem­ber mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties: the cities of Kitch­ener, Water­loo and Cam­bridge, and the town­ships of Wool­wich, Welles­ley, Wil­mot and North Dum­fries.

Launched in 2015 as the Water­loo Re­gion Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion – later drop­ping the “re­gion” from its moniker – it’s a joint strat­egy to re­cruit busi­nesses to set up shop in the re­gion, and to pro­mote ex­pan­sion of ex­ist­ing com­pa­nies. It has an an­nual op­er­a­tion budget of $2 mil­lion.

Wool­wich chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer David Bren­ne­man said mem­ber­ship in the or­ga­ni­za­tion has been a boon for the township, point­ing to WEDC’s work last year with an ex­pan­sion at Con­estoga Meat Pack­ers in Bres­lau and re­lo­ca­tion of a busi­ness to St. Ja­cobs. He rec­om­mended coun­cil re­new mem­ber­ship for five years at an an­nual cost of $50,000.

Last year, WEDC car­ried out 11 deals val­ued at $316 mil­lion.

“Ap­prox­i­mately 35 per cent of the in­vest­ment deals in 2017 were in the town­ships. In par­tic­u­lar, with the help of WEDC, Con­estoga Meats in the Township of Wool­wich re­ceived $5.3 mil­lion in fund­ing from the On­tario government to support its ex­pan­sion in­clud­ing cre­at­ing 170 new jobs,” said Bren­ne­man in a re­port to coun­cil. “As well, WEDC worked in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the township to re-lo­cate Huron Dig­i­tal Pathol­ogy to St. Ja­cobs, and that move in­cluded 30 ex­ist­ing jobs along with plans for ex­pan­sion. This par­tic­u­lar de­vel­op­ment also re­sulted in four ad­di­tional light man­u­fac­tur­ing units be­ing con­structed, and two of those units have been leased.”

Coun. Pa­trick Mer­li­han was the sole dis­sent­ing voice, point­ing to the lack of de­tails sur­round­ing fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits to the township. He also ar­gued against ty­ing the hands of the next coun­cil by sign­ing on for five more years, sug­gest­ing the de­ci­sion should be made fol­low­ing this fall’s elec­tion.

“I’m un­com­fort­able with mak­ing a de­ci­sion for the en­tire next term of coun­cil.”

Ear­lier, he pressed WEDC pres­i­dent Tony La­man­tia for the dif­fer­ence be­tween eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and cor­po­rate welfare.

La­man­tia noted that only two of last year’s 11 deals closed by WEDC in­volved government money. He said some­times grants or loans are needed to seal the deal, es­pe­cially when com­pet­ing with U.S. cen­tres. Even be­fore the cor­po­rate tax cuts in the U.S., Cana­dian cities some­times had a hard time deal­ing with the large hand­outs – from tax hol­i­days to bond is­suances – avail­able to ju­ris­dic­tions to the south. Provin­cial and/or fed­eral money can some­times level the play­ing field, he said.

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