Economic development, transparency top of mind for Lacombe
City of Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey gives the 2018 State of the City Address to a room full of residents, business owners and community members on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 in the County Room at the Lacombe Memorial Centre. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
Lacombe is open for business.
A phrase uttered more than once during the fall’s election campaign last year, it was the focus of the 2018 State of the City Address given by City of Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey as he spoke to city staff, fellow dignitaries, business people and community members at the Lacombe Memorial Centre last Wednesday.
“Even during this tough economic climate, Lacombe has grown at a steady pace,” Creasey said. “By the time we move ahead on some of the developments that have already been initiated, as well as some other developments...we're going to prove Lacombe is progressive and truly open for business.”
While only having served as mayor for the last three months, Creasey touched on past year and the steps the city and its prior council took to ensure facilities, amenities and service levels better meet the need of residents.
Chief among 2017’s highlights was the commencement of construction on the North Red Deer Regional Wastewater Transmission Line, the completion of the Main Street Program and its replacement of sanitary sewer mains for the downtown core, as well as the renovation and expansion of the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex completed over the summer.
“The facility is now barrier-free, and a viable sports hub for decades to come,” he said.
Continued partnership with Lacombe County in signing a joint service agreement in September for the servicing and development of the West Area was another step forward for the community. While the project comes with a price tag north of $15-million, Creasey says it will facilitate major commercial development for the city, and provide opportunities for new and existing businesses. A 25-year lease and funding agreement was also signed by the city, county and Lacombe Flying Club for the Lacombe Regional Airport.
“The city is proud of the long-standing relationship we have with Lacombe County and we’re honoured to be a part of a great partnership that has led to many positive outcomes for both communities,” he said. “By collaborating, we will provide long-term benefits for the entire region.
“I see no reason why that won’t continue in the future.”
While 2017 saw the community make major strides to facilitate growth and economic development, Creasey says he and the new council will narrow in on three specific goals in 2018.
“Our backgrounds vary, but we do have a common vision - to increase openness and accountability in government, to better engage the public on important civic issues and to promote growth by overcoming any barriers to economic development,” he said.
Early “successes” for the new council include the passing of the 2018 operating budgets with a 1.3 per cent property tax increase, which is among the lowest increases in small cities in the province.
“This allows the city to continue service delivery at current levels while keeping tax increases as low as possible,” he said. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done on this. Council’s approved a very prudent and realistic budget that’s responsive to the needs and preferences of all our citizens.”
On the capital budget side, a total of about $3-million, as well as carryover of $15-million from 2017 projects, has been allocated for 38 projects.
Projects include the actual servicing of the West Area, the design and land acquisition for the Henner’s Storm Outlet Project, the addition of an east-bound left turn lane on 50th Ave. and 58 St., a north taxiway at the airport, upgrades to the public works building and various smaller maintenance projects.
On the topic of transparency, Creasey says council is committed to conducting business in an “open and transparent and accountable fashion.”
To that end, they’re working on passing a new procedural bylaw, expected to be given third and final reading at a future council meeting, which will see the implementation of recorded votes, streamed council meetings, as well as a short, structured open-mic session prior to regular meetings.
They’re also aiming to eliminate red tape for businesses. While business licences have seen a steady 14 per cent increase per year over the past three years, Creasey says more needs to be done in that area.
“A strong economy is required to build a solid community, and similarly, an active community is required to fuel a robust economy. It’s a fundamental principle of community economic development,” he said. “It’s clear government cannot bring about change on its own, and it’s all about partnerships.”
He said the city needs to help the community’s key private, public, not-profit organizations and all sectors to mobilize towards a set of common goals to encourage free-enterprise and attract new investment.
“The city has taken some concrete steps towards eliminating (red tape) by revising the Land Use Bylaw to make it easier for land developers to navigate municipal licensing and permitting requirements,” he said.
“Council’s goal is to nurture a business-friendly culture and fostering and innovative and entrepreneurial environment that we can all be excited about. This includes creating a city that is infrastructure ready, people ready and business friendly to clearly demonstrate Lacombe is, in fact, open for business.”
The city also released its 2017 Year in Review report to the community on Tuesday as a digital publication on its website.
The report is a synopsis highlighting the accomplishments of the City of Lacombe in 2017, including the aforementioned construction projects, to enhancing civic infrastructure, community events and festivals, and laying the groundwork for future growth and more.
“As we have in the past, we will continue to work to ensure that the City of Lacombe is a true partner to residents, business, industry, community organizations and other levels of government by sharing our knowledge, expertise and resources for the betterment of our community,” said acting Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Goudy.
The report can be found at http://publications.lacombe.ca/2017YIR/index.html.