Another live event to be held on 20 September 2018

The first trial run of streaming a live Q&A session (held on 12 September) went quite well (notwithstanding the power outage within the first few minutes).  I would like to repeat this (minus the storm, hopefully), but this time with much more notice.

As you watch, there will be a concurrent chat available where you can ask me a question(s).  This is a great chance to ask a question or raise an issue.  Afterward, if you would like a personalised visit, I am happy to arrange this via email (david@dtduval.ca) or by phone (204 295 9055).

To participate, point your browser to https://www.facebook.com/dtduvalward2/ (you can also click on the image above) or alternatively search for dtduvalward2 in Facebook search box.  It should also work on the Facebook app for your phone or other mobile device.  Hope to see many of you online!

David

Municipal government as a catalyst for economic development

What follows are some rough notes and preliminary thoughts relating to economic development initiatives for the RM of Springfield.  These will likely be amended as I devote more mental energy to the exercise.  In the meantime, I welcome any and all comments.

As one of the closest levels of government to 'on the ground' economic activity, local (or municipal) governments have almost always had some interest in ensuring they are involved, one way or another, in economic development.  A healthy (and growing) tax base "primes the pump" for a strong local economy, which in turn facilitates construction of amenities and services that residents want.

While Provincial and Federal governments more or less (attempt to) set the terms and parameters of the wider economic climate, much of the nuts and bolts of those activities are framed ultimately by local, high-quality regulations and legislation, including formal Development Plans.

The RM of Springfield, like any municipality, has a vested interest in creating the most appealing competitive environment possible.  A common question heard during election time is what, if anything, a municipal government such as the RM of Springfield can do to ensure economic development is maximised.

Here are a few examples, some of which could sit alongside, or be implemented within, the current Development Plan for our Municipality, and some of which may already be in place to varying degrees:

ONGOING INITIATIVES

  1. Engagement and consultation.  This is perhaps one of the more important initiatives that a municipality can undertake, and it is often the one that achieves the best 'bang for buck'.  The purpose of this initiative is ensure there is bi-directional engagement between an RM and the business community with the shared intent of creating optimal conditions for businesses to operate.  Local governments need to ensure they are actively and consistently involved in the business community and understand the conditions within which their commercial or industrial sectors operate.  The business community will, naturally, expect to have a voice and input into municipal plans, policies and legislation.  Put another way, a council could simply ask itself: what can we be doing to make it easier to be in business in Springfield?
  2. Ensure the RM is positioned to weather any eventual erratic performance of wider economic conditions provincially and nationally.  Further, it should be prepared to give appropriate instructions to Administration on any directional shifts relating to policy and legislation.  A municipality must have an excellent command of provincial, federal and international economic trends, for these have the potential to have significant and lasting impacts on the ability of an RM to champion and support strong economic growth


SHORT-TERM INITIATIVES (within 3-4 years)

  1. Review existing business fee structures.  Are they competitive?  Is there a perception (accurate or otherwise) that they are restrictive?  Do they come with a concomitant level of value in the services provided by the Municipality (as perceived by local businesses)?
  2. Develop a 'buy local' platform/website designed to support and promote local business.  The objective would be to catalogue existing services/suppliers within the Municipality to offer a one-stop portal for B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) users.  Further, this could be mated with an existing municipal procurement programme/policy for local goods and services (where feasible and fiscally prudent).
  3. Work closely with the Springfield Chamber of Commerce as an active 'ear-to-the-ground' organisation that facilitates regular and direct engagement with/to the business community.  A vibrant and active Chamber provides another valuable data point for a municipality to learn more about the views of the local business community. This can be invaluable when crafting or revising high-quality policy and legislation.
  4. Explore the possibility of creating a working relationship with Economic Development Winnipeg to align common goals and share best practices for attracting talent and capital.


MEDIUM-TERM INITIATIVES (perhaps 3-5 years)

  1. Notwithstanding the creation of an Economic Development Office in the 2018 Municipal Budget, a slightly longer-term initiative could expand this single-window model and use the office to act as the point-of-contact between the Municipality and the commercial sector.  This office becomes, effectively, both a facilitator and a 'problem solver'.  Their remit would largely be supportive, but would effectively be to establish a direct line between business and the Municipality.  At the same time, this office could craft an outreach programme where regular events/seminars and other communication activities would bring parties together.  Such an office, by the way, may not necessarily require additional or new staff; a reconfiguration at the discretion of Administration may be all that is required. 
  2. Investigate the feasibility of establishing a small, SME-focused municipal support programme (e.g., temporary fee reductions, rates support) to facilitate new start-ups or expansion initiatives.  This could be run as a competitive process, and could be part of a wider strategy to establish (or support, if driven privately) a platform for attracting new start-ups.  Long term, the option of having the RM involved in a business incubator, potentially partnered with existing ones in the city or with a coworking firm, could be explored.  The vision here is to get Springfield 'on the map' for small business when considering location.
  3. Develop a database of business activities for the purpose of monitoring future clusters and 'field configuration’ initiatives.  An initiative such as this could tie in with a larger economic strategy for the Municipality whereby targeted industries or sectors are identified and sought based on natural factor endowments held locally.


(Potential) Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Recognising that targets for some of the above may not always be recommended in early phases, the following KPIs (which are not an exhaustive list, by any means) could be implemented with a view to crafting them in the future:

  • rate of new business growth (raw numbers, perhaps by sector) and Y-O-Y change in permits, applications, etc.
  • longitudinal shifts and changes to the tax base
  • change, if any, in business churn over several years (longitudinal)
  • inquiries and conversions from expressions of interest for business establishment
  • new job creation (both quantity and quality, where feasibly measured)
  • population changes

Upcoming events

Thanks to those folks who have taken the time to be in touch directly with questions and comments.  I have also hugely enjoyed the full and frank chats I've been having with folks on front steps and in driveways.  

As we move into September, a few noteworthy events coming up that I will be attending:

  1. The Springfield Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a "Member Mixer" on 19 September from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at Pineridge Hollow.  More details on the Chamber's website.  Non-members are able to attend.
  2. The Chamber will also be hosting a series of Candidate forums in early October.  The forum for Ward 2 is scheduled for 3 October from 6:30pm to 9:30pm and will be held at the Anola Community Centre.  More details can be found on the Chamber's Facebook page.

If you are at all able to attend these events, please do.  If not, please reach out, as always, via email or on 204 295 9055 if you wish to discuss ideas, issues or concerns. 

 

Surgery - break from campaigning...

I’ll be taking a scheduled break from face-to-face campaigning for a little while.

A few years ago, I developed a detached retina in my left eye. Since then, I've had medical grade silicone oil in that eye to hold the retina in place (hopefully). On 16 August, I am scheduled to have a third (and hopefully last) surgery on that eye to (1) remove the oil and (2) remove the cataract that has developed (which was a guaranteed side effect of the first surgery in 2016).

I'll be somewhat out of commission for a few weeks as I recover, but I know what to expect and I'm well prepared. I'm also in very good hands with two truly world-class surgeons at Misercordia.  

Once things settle, I hope to get to as many houses in Ward 2 as possible. As well, I am planning a "Meet the Candidate" evening in Oakbank in late September, which will give residents a chance to discuss their concerns, ask questions and generally have a chat. Details will be posted here and on my Facebook page.

David

A bit of concrete and some water: splashpads and municipal involvement 

It's important to keep in mind that funding for a Splashpad in Springfield has already been included in the Municipality's five year capital plan.  As community recreation amenities, splashpads can be quite appealing:

  1. Not all families have a cottage to go to in the summer, nor do all families get continuous holiday breaks during the hotter months;  
  2. A splashpad is far and away more economical and efficient (from a capex perspective) than an indoor pool; and
  3. As an amenity, it would provide a place for families to meet and greet, thus enhancing and fostering a sense of community.

Overall, then, there seem to be lots of positives and $400,000 already contained in the 5-year capital plan.  So what's next?  In my view, there are two big questions to consider if we want to get a project like this right:

  1. Where will it be placed?  To me, this is a far more important question than whether to even develop the splashpad itself.  The location should be where future recreational attractions/amenities will ultimately be developed (e.g., fields, tracks, diamonds, recreation centres).  Building a great splashpad in the wrong location could be a waste of resources.
  2. Who will pay (and how) for the maintenance and operating costs?  Based on similar splashpads in other towns, what is the annual operating cost?  Unlike, for instance, the aquatic park in Transcona, user pay revenue models (designed to offset operational costs) will not be possible because most splashpads are not fenced, thus negating any meaningful calculation of IRR and ARR.  It will mean the ongoing costs are likely to be borne by the RM.  As such, and based on experience elsewhere, what is the proportional amount we can expect a splashpad to contribute to our annual Recreation and Cultural Services budget?  Further, is the project still viable from a net present value perspective given the initial construction cost, rate of depreciation (i.e., asset management) and replacement cost?

The splashpad debate is illustrative of the desire by many in Oakbank (and the wider municipality) to see more robust recreation facilities.  Let's be sure to take the time to get it right, which will make future recreational planning easier, efficient and inclusive.  

Officially a Candidate

After careful thought and numerous discussions with trusted advisors, I have decided to put my hat in the ring to be the next Councillor for Ward 2 in the RM of Springfield.

Several reasons led to this decision, but they can largely be distilled down to the following: I have the interest and public policy experience necessary to help craft the forward vision of our Municipality as it faces challenges in the areas of economic development, fiscal management and good governance. 

Why me?  Well, you can learn more about me here.  If you feel my background and experience would ultimately be of benefit for Springfield, I would welcome your vote on 24 October 2018.  

I am always available on email should you wish to get in touch, and I would welcome a chance to meet in person to discuss issues/concerns/ideas.

Thanks in advance for your support!

- David