AMO's Economic Development Task Force met June 30, 2009 and discussed the implications of the "Buy America" provisions.

Canada – United States Trade Relations and Ontario municipalities
The Task Force discussed the implications of “Buy America” provisions that have been included into the U.S. Stimulus Bill and the corresponding challenge from Prime Minister Harper to have sub-national governments covered by NAFTA.     

Members also offered their advice to AMO’s Board of Directors on a draft resolution. At its meeting of June 26, 2009, the AMO Board passed a resolution related to “Buy America”. Please refer to the Board Alert for more details.

Best Practice Case Study: The City of North Bay – engaging the community
The Task Force will discuss at least one Ontario municipal best practice at each meeting. North Bay’s business retention and expansion initiative is the first.

In 2005, North Bay Council committed to engaging the local business community to get their sense of the business environment and what steps the City might take to improve it. Using retired business leaders as volunteers and a staff of just three, the City and the Chamber of Commerce set out to personally meet with representatives from 230 businesses in North Bay. Nearly two thirds of all businesses participated in the survey and offered ideas on issues that could be improved. The City followed up on those issues which could be addressed. Designing the survey, training volunteers, completing the survey and following up on all of the issues raised took the volunteer team a year and half to complete.

The success of this initiative for North Bay has been long lasting. It significantly improved overall communication with the business community and set the tone for broader and more cohesive community engagement. The initiative created civic momentum for some major waterfront improvements, downtown developments, and discussions regarding improvements to key public facilities like the local airport.

With three years of record development since the initiative took place, the business climate of North Bay has been fundamentally improved. To this day, City Council visits at least one local business each quarter in the spirit of continued economic development engagement across the community.

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing – Initiatives to assist investment readiness
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing heard feedback from the Task Force on potential areas of action.  Some ideas under consideration include: creating an economic development program inventory and training for municipal staff, creating a process for coordinated community support when a major employer closes down, or establishing an investment readiness certification for communities. The Ministry also presented a list of existing economic development tools and sought input on the effectiveness of these tools.

AMO Annual Conference to include Economic Development Session
The Task Force discussed topics and framed what will be an excellent economic development session at the AMO Annual Conference entitled “Reinventing Local Economies”. Below is a description of the session which will be offered:

Despite the changing times, there are many excellent Ontario examples of successful collaboration between governments, business, and investors. “Whole of community” approaches successfully foster prosperity and regional economic development. Learn from two such examples, the Ontario East Economic Development Corporation and the success of Canada’s Technology Triangle in Waterloo Region.  

How to get involved
Have a good idea your municipality would like to share? If your municipality has a practice or an idea which is a showcase for others, please pass it on.  

Want feedback on a proposal? If you have an idea which you would like the Task Force to consider or would like to make a presentation to get feedback on a proposal, please let us know. 

The next Economic Development Task Force Update will be released this fall.