There is a need to grow the tax base in Springfield. To do this, focus should be directed toward cooperation, competitiveness and good governance. In other words:
- Establish strong relationships and policy/governance initiatives with neighbouring municipalities in the capital region;
- Evaluate our competitive position as a place to live/work/invest/play; and
- Undertake a dedicated programme of, and commitment to, evidence-based governance that ensures policy and legislation is informed by reliable data, accurate costings and multiple perspectives.
THE LONGER VIEW
As part of our overall economic development objectives, Springfield needs to grow the tax base. This means finding and selling strategically our specific strengths in order to attract capital, companies and commerce. Springfield, without question, competes with other local governments/municipalities for these investments/opportunities. That said, we also need to recognise instances when it may be more advantageous to cooperate than compete (e.g., transportation planning). We need to establish a foundation of good governance (evidence-based policies and legislation) that will guide economic development.
Springfield faces a number of challenges, and many of these challenges will be shared by other municipalities within the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region. Here is how I broadly see our economic trajectory, and what kinds of things we could consider:
- We should privilege measured, sustained growth, preferably with established targets and opportunities. We should think about:
- targeting small, nimble 'workbench' industries and sectors and ensuring our Municipality is attractive enough for them to 'set up shop; and
- establishing a municipal development 'platform' with associated 'field-configuring events' that target multiple, related industries and initiatives.
- We should be realistic (and serious) about our competitive position. As mentioned above, Springfield is in competition with other neighbouring municipalities – not just the City of Winnipeg – for commercial development opportunities. Our geographic position to the east of the City is something that needs to be considered. In light of this, here are a few questions that I often think about:
- What is the basis of our competitive position as a municipality? In other words, why would a firm or industry locate here? Why would a resident want to start a business in Springfield as opposed to Winnipeg? What makes us unique? What do we have to offer?
- Related to this, what natural factor endowments does Springfield have that make these kinds of decisions both easier and more difficult in attracting investment capital? How can we capitalise on these?
- What can Springfield do (in terms of policies and legislation) to establish the right operating environment for local industry/businesses and potential new entrants?
- Growth that is demonstrably flexible and proactive, not reactive:
- What opportunities, for instance, could new technologies and data acquisition/analysis bring for our municipality? Where can we lead in these kinds of initiatives? For instance, Oakbank has fibre optic internet services available to it, yet other jurisdictions are racing to ensure they have similar infrastructure to be competitive and attractive to outside investment. Already, we are at a competitive advantage from this perspective.
- What can Springfield do to be attractive to, as indicated above, capital, companies and commerce? More importantly, how can we practice good governance such that needed policies and plans are fast, efficient and effective so that we are, in fact, proactive?
- Integration and cooperation with neighbouring municipalities on matters relating to transport and economic development incentives and initiatives. For instance, where might data sharing agreements with respect to water management and traffic flows be used so we can ensure our approach is measured and logical (and not out of sync with other jurisdictions)?
- New models of revenue generation. I cannot claim full credit for this idea, as it is something that Chris Lorenc from the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association (among others) has written about, but it is something that I have also pondered as well. Our current municipal revenues come from taxes and fees paid by residents (own-source revenue, as it is known) and businesses as well as government transfers and reserve transfers. As above, we are in competition not only with other municipalities, but with other levels of government who rely on the same tax base. We need to explore alternative revenue generation initiatives.
- I am interesting in exploring whether a full Capital Investment Plan is warranted/necessary, which would capitalise on (and possibly extend, where appropriate) the Asset Management Policy passed by Council on 15 May 2018. Such a plan would naturally link to the operations budget (as the current Policy does already) and would carry on with existing asset management activities. The purpose of a CIP is to forward plan asset replacement and maintenance, so it would start with a current inventory of municipal assets, an assessment of their deprecation and replacement cost. From there, the CIP would effectively establish a process where strategic investments in infrastructure (for instance, a community/recreation centre) could be identified (or equally dismissed as not being a priority).
- The RM currently has low debt service costs, and there is some logic in incurring debt to pay for large investments in infrastructure and services. However, I would like to see this debt service cost capped (via by-law) at a specific proportion of a resident's tax bill. This would help protect residents from cost overruns approved by future Councils on large investment projects where debentures or bonds are issued.
Last update: 5 September 2018 @ 20:07CDT