Attracting major events and new industry to Brandon would be a top priority for mayoral candidate Rick Chrest.
Chrest made a platform announcement Thursday, stating the city has become largely "reactive" when it comes to business development.
"In my business less than half our business ‘just shows up’; the majority comes through advertising, marketing and being proactive," Chrest stated in a press release.
"It’s time for Brandon to get cracking and start utilizing our numerous resources to be more proactive in attracting economic development, tourism and large event hosting."
Chrest said it is vital to have a focused economic development department.
"They seem to have been given a lot more portfolios, they’re … in charge of the affordable housing portfolio, accommodation tax situation," he said. "That’s taking … resources and focus away from really working on economic development, in my view."
Another way Chrest would like to help the city’s economic development is by creating advisory councils.
"This is not a new idea. It’s done by many communities, it has been done by Brandon and I think we can … harness all these great ideas and great people that we have throughout our community that would be probably happy to pitch in," he said.
Agriculture/agribusiness, oil industry, metal fabrication and chemical processing are just a few of the sectors in Westman that Chrest would like to see Brandon tap into.
Chrest said there are dedicated people working hard in tourism and event hosting; however, he feels they "have been left to do it on their own."
He referenced several major events that have been hosted in Brandon, including world curling, Scott Tournament of Hearts, Canada Summer Games and World Youth Baseball.
"I’ve had the great privilege to be involved in both the bidding and hosting of every one of these so I indeed share the passion of hundreds of volunteers who made these huge successes for Brandon," he said.
"It’s time to reignite and reclaim our ‘host city’ moniker and re-engage the hundreds of volunteers who are skilled and passionate about once again hosting some of these large events."
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said the city has already been proactive in attracting tourism and major events.
"You only have to look at the number of events that are coming to Brandon, and I think the biggest boom to tourism and economic development for the city has been WestJet," she said.
Decter Hirst also pointed out how city council allocated millions over the past four years for Keystone Centre roof repairs and upgrades.
"That has also been significant driver of attracting more events to the city," she said.
The mayor added that Brandon First has been successful with tourism initiatives and she also pointed to the hotel tax, which was implemented in 2012. Accommodation tax grants have been given out to various events in Brandon over the past few years.
"In terms of attracting new events or expanding existing events, we’re actually putting significant resources towards that," she said.
The mayor agreed with Chrest that attracting business has been reactive; however, she says it "certainly hasn’t been idle."
"We jump to the pump to respond to inquiries, but we’re not going and doing cold calling," she said.
The city’s economic development department has a number of files, including tourism and immigration.
"The immigration file, especially when working with Maple Leaf, has been critically important," she said.
The mayor agrees that more resources need to be allocated to economic development. She noted that during the last few budget rounds, resources were proposed to take files off the economic development desk; however, it ultimately was defeated by council.
"It’s not a dictatorship and the will of council was that we wanted to continue to have a stable level of funding but not an increased level of funding," she said.
The city’s economic development strategy is expected to be presented at an upcoming city council meeting.
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