Tourism, housing among Chamber recommendations for city budget

Date ArticleType
3/5/2013 Press Release

Timmins, March 5, 2013—City spending should be directed towards properly planning for the future of tourism, housing and development while making the most of existing resources, according to the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.

These ideas formed the core of the organization’s annual presentation, made by Chamber President Art Pultz and its Municipal Affairs Committee Chair Phil Barton on March 4 in advance of the city’s approval of the municipal budget.

“Traditionally, the Chamber has argued that measured spending is acceptable when it is done with specific plans in mind, with an eye to the future and a sense as to how individual spending projects fit into the larger picture,” said Pultz.
“Although the sticker shock cannot be ignored, the development of master plans in tourism, culture and recreation – and of course, housing – are invaluable for this kind of measured, consistent approach.”

These overarching strategies are due to be developed this year as initiatives of the city’s Timmins 2020 plan, which the Chamber continues to support, said Pultz. This work will include an inventory of local housing, which will feed into a long-term plan for addressing the problems surrounding accommodations – something in which the Chamber has been deeply involved in recent years.

The Chamber also supports the ongoing efforts to provide a specific scope and direction to Tourism Timmins, which continues to reinvent itself following the recent sale of the Shania Twain Centre to Goldcorp.

“Given the need to refocus tourism spending in the wake of this development, the Chamber would ask that related funds be allocated to strengthening Timmins’ tourism product based on a factual awareness of market needs, local strengths, and fiscal responsibility,” said Pultz. “Investment in tourism is important for this community, a reality its businesses understand quite well, and so we would ask that these funds be spent in support of ideas driven by sound research and an overall plan.”

The presentation also reinforced that the city would prove to be an optimal partner for taking over management of the Tourism Information Centre, something which the Chamber has long operated for free in service to local residents and businesses. As the city continues to look for ways to revamp its tourism strategy in light of the sale of the Shania Twain Centre, its adoption of the Tourism Information Centre would allow municipal staff to directly offer the products it creates to the travel-minded public, said Pultz.

City staffing also stood as a budget priority for the Chamber. Given the proposed hires in tourism and development, the municipality should consider conducting a city-wide staffing audit to determine the full range of needs across all departments, said Pultz.

This is particularly crucial given the added budgetary pressures the city faces this year, though Pultz cautioned against raising commercial tax rates as an easy fix. Instead, revenue should be generated by collecting taxes already owed to the municipality by addressing the backlog of tax arrears, and by aggressively investigating and assessing illegal construction projects which would add to the local tax base.

Municipal revenues could also be enhanced in the long term by further expanding the Community Improvement Plan funding and scope, said Pultz. This program offers grants to support further private-sector investment, something which has already proven to bring about significant visual refreshing to Timmins’ downtown businesses. By expanding the program to include brownfields, the City should be able to further encourage development of derelict properties, said Pultz.

Every year, the Chamber’s presentation to council is assembled through an extensive process of consultation, with member input being provided through a wide variety of venues. This includes surveys, roundtable discussions, several Chamber committees, and numerous one-on-one interviews conducted by Chamber staff. The finished presentation represents the majority view as expressed by members throughout that consultation process.

The Chamber makes every effort to be as inclusive as possible of its members’ views so as best to represent their interests at all levels of government. Members who have business issues – municipal, provincial, or federal – that they would like to see addressed are encouraged to contact the Chamber.

For the full text of the Chamber’s presentation to council, click here

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About the Timmins Chamber of Commerce
With over 800 members, the Timmins Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest accredited chambers of commerce with distinction in northeastern Ontario. As the “Voice of Business in Timmins” since 1949, our advocacy and policy initiatives focus on ensuring a positive business climate in the City of Timmins.

Contact:
Nick Stewart
Policy and Communications Director
Timmins Chamber of Commerce
(705) 360-1900
policy@timminschamber.on.ca