May 15, 2023
Position Paper: GMS-ED-2023-001 Economic Development Strategy 2018-2022 Progress and New Plan Approach
King Chamber Advocacy Committee
There is a strong partnership between the King Chamber of Commerce and the Township of King, working together to create a vibrant and prosperous community.
As has been identified in the past, the largest percentage of municipal tax revenues derive from residential property taxes. A more balanced tax base is essential for achieving the Township’s vision for growth and the sustainability of the community. The previous five-year economic strategy provided a strong foundation, but significant economic impacts caused by the pandemic have continued to affect the business environment globally, nationally, regionally and locally. These include ongoing labour shortages, high interest rates, scarcity of capital and resources, and intense competition for investment attraction.
These challenges are also taking place in a rapidly changing environment due to provincial and federal legislative priorities. All of these are impacting municipal budgets, processes and policies, as well as being factored into business investment decisions.
As a result of these ongoing challenges, the Township must undertake a new, action-oriented approach, one that builds on the core foundations in the previous strategy, but ensures focused execution efforts aimed at investment attraction, business growth and investment readiness. Therefore, a plan, rather than a strategy, which can be rapidly updated as needed to reflect changing environmental conditions, is needed to prioritize economic development efforts.
With the new Official Plan and the Corporate Strategy in place, the time is now for a targeted, action-focused plan that will deliver the economic transformation required to support the needed business growth for King Township.
Focus for Plan: Action and Execution
The King Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the recommendations of the report for a New Plan Approach, with more focus on investment readiness, investment attraction and supporting business growth.
- A MADE IN KING APPROACH: King Township is one of nine York Region municipalities. While there is strong collaboration and support from the Regional government level, each municipality is competing for business attraction and retention. King Township has unique community assets and business profiles, and economic development plans must be differentiated to highlight the advantages of King Township, while aligning with economic priorities detailed in the Township’s new Official Plan.
- ACHIEVING BUSINESS GROWTH: Previous economic development strategies have included a mix of both community and economic development activities. While these efforts have provided important supports in the community, the Township now has the staff in place in Community Services to take on the actions that are indirectly supporting economic development efforts. Economic development staff, therefore, must be focused on investment readiness, business attraction, and business growth efforts. An action-oriented plan would set specific outcomes and measurements to ensure that progress is being made towards the goals of increasing jobs and increasing the commercial share of municipal tax revenues. In the Chamber’s Position Paper on the 2023 Municipal Budget, Recommendation 3 was to Stay Focused on Strategic Work.
- RESPONSIVE: Growing the commercial tax base in King Township will require ensuring a responsive environment in which business investments and developments can be accelerated. This translates into prioritizing non-residential development proposals, and taking an “all hands on deck” approach to streamlining the municipal review and approval processes to expedite the projects. Recognizing the many governing policies at various levels of government, King Township should ensure that resources are allocated for guiding these high priority initiatives through the required processes. This is part of the “open for business” culture that is needed in King Township, and which was also referenced in the Chamber’s Position Paper on the 2023 Municipal Budget Recommendation Action 1: Reduce Barriers for Business.
- Streamlined approvals for employment area land proposals is critical. The Township should ensure the prioritization of these proposals, allowed under the Official Plan, as they are the ones that will have the most impact in terms of generating commercial revenues in the short term. Two examples of proposals that should be accelerated include the Nikola Blackwood Prestige Employment Area Site, and the JTF commercial property at King/Keele.
- MAXIMIZING OPPORTUNITIES: New provincial legislation, including Bill 97, creates opportunities to increase employment lands as part of municipal growth plans. The lack of available employment lands has been one of the restricting factors preventing King Township from fully realizing the objective of increasing the commercial tax base. It is essential that King Township be in a position to address and respond to these opportunities as they arise. Creating a short- and medium-term action plan rather than a high level strategy will ensure that the economic development opportunities are maximized, to the benefit of the Township residents and businesses.
- The New Plan should explore specific opportunities to create an attractive environment for investment. Examples include:
- Collective energy generation and distribution
- Shared investments in transit, affordable housing
- Finding innovative solutions to balance growth and environmental concerns
- INVESTMENT READINESS BY DESIGN: Ensuring an attractive environment for business investments requires key elements be either in place, or planned to be in place in the near to mid-term. Attractive transportation corridors including access to major highways, building an inventory of serviced land parcels zoned for commercial and industrial activity, policies that allow the municipality to assemble these inventories (either direct purchase or if absolutely necessary, expropriation), and ensuring community benefits and values align with the proposed developments, are necessary for King Township to become investment readiness. Key studies pertaining to employment lands, Doctor’s Lane, Highway 11 and the 400 corridor need to be completed as soon as possible, and the findings integrated into an overall plan for ensuring investment readiness. This is possibly the most significant and transformational activity the Township could undertake to ensure the commercial tax base in expanded.
Plan Input: Business Engagement
- Growing a rural economy requires dual track engagement: supporting small businesses and their growth needs, and engaging with large businesses on investment and their business needs. Both these constituencies need to be represented in the New Plan for Economic Development
- The King Chamber encourages the Township to establish a task force to guide the development of the New Plan. Membership on the task force should include businesses of different sizes and from different sectors, to ensure that the resulting action plan will meet the needs of the community both in the short term as well as the long term.
- The King Chamber of Commerce can assist in the business engagement process, sharing updates, sending out surveys, and amplifying the voices of the business community.
The King Chamber of Commerce, through its 210+ member businesses representing thousands of local residents and their families, are strong champions for balanced growth. We remain committed to continuing our collaboration with government and residents to find creative and effective solutions to the challenges of business growth within the Township, in pursuit of a complete and prosperous community. The Chamber supports the proposed New Plan, with a more focused and streamlined approach that prioritizes non-residential development and results in an agile, responsive environment to attract business investment.