Annual Mayor’s Address to the Aurora Chamber of Commerce
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good afternoon, and thank you once again for the opportunity to address the business members of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce.
I am pleased to be back here at Oakview Terrace. Please join me in thanking our hosts for their generous hospitality and delightful lunch today!
Thank you to our title sponsors – The Banner and Bell Canada. Your continued support and sponsorship of this luncheon is appreciated.
I would like to recognize and thank my Council colleagues who have joined us here today. As well as members of Town staff. And, a special nod to Newmarket Mayor, Tony Van Bynen.
Thank you to Chamber President Javed Khan, Chamber Special Events Coordinator Sandra Watson and the rest of the Chamber staff who worked so hard to make today happen.
It’s hard to believe that this is my 7th annual Chamber Luncheon. And it isn’t just an opportunity for the business community to hear from me, but for me to hear from you.
Each and every businessperson in this room is an integral part of the fabric of our community. Whether you run or work at a small or large business, you help bring our motto of being “In Good Company” to life.
In preparing for today’s talk, I reviewed my previous presentations, and decided to change things up a bit. So I’d like to kick things off with a short video showcasing some of the successful established and new businesses that call Aurora home.
As you can see from the video, from 1926 to the present, we really are in Good Company!
Now, as you know, I try to have a special announcement at this luncheon. Last year, it was the announcement of PreGel, one of the businesses just highlighted in the video.
This year, I had hoped to announce that we’ve brought a new hotel to town!
News that many of you have been waiting to hear for a very long time.
However, MasterBUILT, the developer of the project, was so excited to get started that they beat me to the punch!
I sincerely wish I could have shared our progress on this front a long time ago. However, confidentiality restrictions between the Town and investors prevented us from doing so until just recently.
This exciting news comes as a result of years of hard work by Town staff who toiled behind the scenes to attract premier hotel developers to our area.
Back in 2012, MasterBUILT had identified Aurora as a community they wanted to be in and subsequently chose our community as the first GTA location for their newest Microtel by Wyndham Suites hotel.
Those of you who were here last year will remember me addressing the issue of Development Charges being a major impediment. This was raised not only by MasterBUILT, but other proponents as well.
Recognizing this, Town staff brought forward a proposal to adjust its DC rates in the fall of 2015.
However, Regional charges were still an issue, and I am very proud that I successfully lobbied Regional Council to reduce their portion of hotel development charges, as part of the 2017 DC update.
This was the impetus for MasterBUILT to fulfill their vision of making Aurora their home in the GTA.
Regional Staff just released their new Development Charges proposal last week, and will be received by Council tomorrow, to start the consultation process. Final approval is slated for this coming June.
The new proposal reduces the rate from $40.31 per square foot to $7.95. For this development, that represents a reduction of over $1,500,000!
To put this in perspective, the construction cost of the proposed development is 12 ~ 15 Million, so a reduction of 10% is substantial.
I know that the Chamber is just as excited about this project as I am and I hope you will join the Town and MasterBUILT hotels for our ground-breaking event once it is scheduled.
And, it’s a great time to bring a new hotel to our community. The economy in York Region is booming and Regional employment growth continues to outpace national, provincial and GTA averages. As of mid-year 2016 employment increased by more than 15,000 jobs over the previous year.
We have a diverse and resilient economy
We have a community that is bursting with possibility and potential
But we need to work together to ensure Aurora – our community – meets its full potential as a vibrant and strong Town with a solid business core.
The Town can’t do it alone.
The Chamber can’t do it alone.
You, the business owner, can’t do it alone.
We are all in this together. A point that I have consistently made since my first address in 2011.
I feel energized as I reflect on some of the progress made this year that will help us further realize our potential.
From the decision to demolish the old fire hall and library and move forward with developing our Cultural Precinct, to the introduction of the new Economic Development Board – exciting things are happening.
While plans for the Cultural Precinct/Library Square are still developing, I am confident that we will create a destination that brings residents together, supports small businesses and brings in visitors to patronising those businesses.
I believe a major element of this project is the support it offers to Downtown Revitalization.
Another of our achievements has been the approval of the new Economic Development Board. We expect to begin recruiting for the board in late February.
This is an outstanding opportunity for us to bring together some of the best business minds in our community, with the support of Town staff, to develop the right economic development strategy.
I recognized that increased engagement with the business community needed to be a priority and last year I committed to tasking our CAO, Doug Nadorozny with getting directly involved with the Chamber. Since then, Doug has been a regular attendee at Chamber Board meetings.
A new Economic Development Officer will focus heavily on engaging and reaching out to businesses in the community and staff are in the process of updating the BusinessAurora.ca website to better align with the new economic development direction at Town Hall.
Doug was instrumental in re-energizing the Economic Development function when he was in Sudbury, and I am pleased that we can tap into his expertise as we move forward.
On the Regional Front – The Broadband Strategy Advisory Task Force is close to completing its 18-month mandate on developing a comprehensive plan to address the issues of connectivity in York Region.
And not just “tin can & string” connectivity, but high and ultra-high speed connectivity.
The Task Force will be meeting tomorrow to finalize direction to staff on the next steps … steps that I believe will greatly enhance the overall business community of York Region.
We are also actively engaged in a Small Cell project. A technology project that will enhance cell phone communications while reducing the proliferation of traditional cell towers.
So, I’ve talked a bit about what the Town is doing to support business. But what can the Chamber do? What can you, the business owner do?
The Chamber offers a phenomenal opportunity for business owners to come together, share their experiences and learn from one another. As you may know, I was on the Board of the Chamber for many years and was an active, successful business owner in this community.
I know first-hand how meaningful and impactful the support and knowledge-exchange that happens between members can be.
I would urge any potential business owner to connect with the Chamber, network with members and do their research.
Whether you are a first-time business owner, an experienced businessperson, a manufacturer or a retailer, learning from others is the key to success.
We need businesses to be successful. Every time a business closes down, it affects our community.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a whole Town to support a business.
The Town partners with the York Region Small Business Enterprise Centre to help new businesses navigate the process of getting set up.
The chamber and the business community as a whole needs to support the business owner to ensure they are making solid business decisions and have a successful, realistic and executable business plan in place.
And the community needs to support local businesses by shopping locally and encouraging their friends and neighbours to do the same.
Aurora is a fast-growing, educated, highly-skilled and sophisticated community.
Year after year, MoneySense magazine rates us in the top 25 places in Canada to live.
We offer a competitive environment with affordable serviced lands and quick access to major markets.
We have solid systems and programs in place to support local businesses.
And I am confident that with the new Economic Development Board, we are well-positioned to take Aurora to the next level.
Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of people working together. The business community in this Town has great potential. I look forward to working with you reach that potential.
Members of the Chamber and assembled guests, thank you for your attendance and your support for the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and The Town of Aurora.
I would be happy to expand on any of the topics just covered.