Attracting investors and new industry to Brandon will be a key to driving the growth and prosperity of the city, according to Mayor Shari Decter Hirst.
That was one of the topics the mayor touched on in her fourth State of the City address.
"We need to be aggressive in recruiting, in capitalizing our industrial parks," Decter Hirst said. "(We) need to be expanding servicing, we need more housing, we need to work together — both the private sector, but also the public sector ... each of us has a role to play if we’re going to be building a bigger and more prosperous community."
Decter Hirst delivered her speech Thursday at the Victoria Inn’s Imperial Ballroom to a room of 410 people at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
<t-2.5>The mayor said Brandon can be an attractive location for investors for a number of reasons, including its proximity to the Bakken oilpatch, the fact that it is located at the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 10, as well as at the junction of the CN and
CP rail lines. Other positive factors include Brandon’s airport and that it is a trading area for an estimated 180,000 people.
"We’ve all seen that there’s money to be made in the Bakken, but there’s even more money to be made in servicing the Bakken," she said. "The Bakken has the promise of being our next Maple Leaf."
Decter Hirst took the opportunity on Thursday to reflect on the last three and a half years and what has been accomplished since the current city council has been in office.
A focal point of her speech was talking about the vision that was developed for the city four years ago.
"We started 2010 with a very concrete sense of where we needed to go and how we were going to get there," she said. "Every decision we’ve made over the past four years, every program that’s been launched, every facility that has been built or renovated, every personnel thats been hired … everything has been done as part of that vision."
To address the growing infrastructure deficit, council has added more than $1.5 million to the ongoing operating budget for road resurfacing, sidewalk repair and drainage.
"Infrastructure also includes water that runs through those pipes," she said. "On the drawing board for 2015 is a major overhaul of our wastewater treatment facility."
Decter Hirst was pleased to report on the $80 million water reclamation facility that was completed in the last year.
The city battled the historic flood of 2011, and the mayor said since then, rebuilding the diking system has been a "critical priority," adding that there are plans to add another lift station to the north side of the river.
Renovations are underway at the former Convergys building, now known as the A.R. McDiarmid Civic Complex. By the fall it will be the new home for the city’s engineering, planning, and building safety departments.
"Contractors, developers, residents will have a one-stop shop to do business with the city," Decter Hirst said. "Whether it’s making payments, taking out permits, applying for variances or other aspects of your projects, everything will all be handled efficiently in one spot."
The success of WestJet’s daily air service and the city’s plans for airport expansion, were also touched on.
The mayor spoke about Brandon becoming a greener city in the past three and a half years, and she is particularly proud of the green cart compost collection program.
The city has managed to divert nearly 50 per cent of its garbage away from the landfill, she said, compared to only 13 per cent in 2007.
Developing the city, both residential and commercial, is a priority, the mayor said. That’s why secondary plans have been developed to guide growth in the north and south. A secondary plan will soon be started for the city’s industrial park.
"These plans involve consulting with the community, our neighbours in (the RMs of) Cornwallis and Elton, developers, and of course the city," she said. "It’s not just good enough to build, we have to build smart, both for today and for tomorrow."
Following her speech, Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Craig Senchuk asked the mayor a few questions, including one about the city’s development plans.
"We seem to have a lot of developers, a good handful of pretty prominent developers, both in town and out of town that are very interested in going south, yet we seem to be focusing our efforts on looking north," Senchuk said.
He asked the mayor to comment on why that is.
Decter Hirst responded by saying the city has reached its southern boundary, and the land in question is still in the RM of Cornwallis.
"That’s not the City of Brandon," she said, but added that it would be the city that runs the buses, plows the roads, picks up garbage and keeps the development safe and secure.
"So it is going to have to be a question of negotiation and how that happens is that the property owner needs to ask the city to amalgamate it into the city," she said. "We stand ready, I think everyone in this room knows where my office is."
Senchuk encouraged the mayor to get those conversations going, saying "someone take the bull by the horns and get it started."
"We have developers that are leaving with opportunities, saying we got other places to go," he said.
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