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Chamber lays out business priorities for municipal election

'Narrative matters. When communication and information are shared broadly—even in the spirit of insight, it lends to the belief that we are all in this together,' says board president
Timmins Chamber president Dan Ayotte.

From enhancing the way the city communicates to a bypass road and partnering to create a one-stop shop for business success, the Timmins Chamber has laid out its priorities and offered up suggestions for the city's future. 

The Chamber has released its platform — Driving Business Growth — outlining five main areas that the business community has identified as needing strategies to help the city grow and thrive. 

The information was gathered through The Chamber's annual survey. The organization will use the data to focus its conversations with candidates ahead of the Oct. 24 election.

The top priorities are open and direct communication and engagement with businesses and stakeholders; cost control; harmonization of city and agency services; diversity, attraction, retention and a housing strategy; and, business growth. 

"Narrative matters. When communication and information are shared broadly—even in the spirit of insight, it lends to the belief that we are all in this together, achieving common benefit from a common set of purposes and gaining strength from acting together," said Dan Ayotte, The Chamber president, in a news release.

"As businesses continue to face growing financial challenges from all levels of government, it is crucial that the municipality focus on limiting future tax increases through diligent efforts to control the City's overall costs, prioritize economic diversification, and aggressively seek new and innovative ways to encourage housing development and new attraction and retention strategies."

Communications and engagement were the number one priority identified in the survey, said senior policy analyst Cameron Grant. 

The Connecting Link construction, for example, is an area where communication could be improved. 

While the project is critical to the community, when the main road is closed and the detours also have road closures, he said it's important to share that information with businesses immediately.

"The workday for many doesn’t start at 8:30 a.m. The workday for a lot of people starts between 5 and 6 a.m., particularly in the natural resource sector. When we speak to communications it is critical that those types of physical roadblocks and barriers are translated to those businesses who use those critical arteries of commerce to get their goods and services not only out of our community but ensure that those dollars continue to flow with our local economy,” he said. 

The Chamber suggests the city looks at new platforms to adapt how information is shared. 

For controlling costs, the organization is also encouraging an open and transparent budget process. 

"This must be done in a way that allows for a public understanding of the specific spending priorities selected by council; this should include public availability of departmental reports outlining annual projects and initiatives that will impact their ability to meet council-set budget targets," reads the report.

From 2019 to 2021, The Chamber says business owners cited a five per cent decrease in satisfaction with accessing business-focused city resources. 

It points to a 2015 KPMG Service Delivery and Operational Review, that was a "moment of opportunity" to review aligning City and arms-length agency services, such as blending services between planning and economic development.

The Chamber report recommends an internal or third-party review of "all municipally funded departments and agencies to identify where improvements are needed and with a business lens in mind." 

"Striving for greater accuracy in job costing may also provide some greater fiscal efficiencies for municipal projects and alleviate some of the pressures seen on specific infrastructure initiatives throughout the year," reads the report. 

One of the most important investments that can be made, according to the report, is a bypass road to create a "safe and efficient corridor of commerce that skirts the City and removes potential or perceived danger from our main street." 

While the city has a 6.9 per cent vacancy rate for housing (the national rate is 3.4 per cent), the report says the availability of "desirable housing" is hurting the region's ability to attract newcomers.

"If the natural resources sector is to see a boom, as markets indicate, our region will be in dire need of an affordable housing strategy to meet the growing demand and adhere to attraction campaigns so desperately needed for our region," says the Chamber.

When it comes to Timmins being open for business, the Chamber suggests partnering with the Timmins Economic Development Corporation for a concierge service providing a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurial success.

The full report is available here.

This story was originally published on TimminsToday on Sept. 20, 2022.

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Maija Hoggett

About the Author: Maija Hoggett

Maija Hoggett is an experienced journalist who covers Timmins and area
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