During the election campaign, my platform to support economic growth in Barrie was based on what we called the “three E’s” – Expansion (growing companies in Barrie), Entrepreneurship, and Education (particularly, post-secondary).
On Education, 2011 has seen the opening of the largest expansion in Georgian College’s history, the 165,000 SF health and wellness building, which the City supported in a number of ways. But the very exciting news now is that Barrie seems closer than ever to achieving the dream of a university campus in our city, with both Provincial parties promising capital investment in universities after the election, and Barrie being talked about all over Ontario as the next city to get a campus. This is absolutely critical for our city – for our economic growth and for our kids to have the same range of opportunities as other cities.
On Entrepreneurship, I have put together a team of volunteers from the community to come up with proposals to pull together the huge range of resources available to small and medium size enterprises (SME’s) in Barrie. I want us to start working together closely to foster entrepreneurship – we have many small organizations doing great things, and more starting up all the time, but they too often work in isolation. Together, these groups can become a powerful resource to SMEs, providing support in everything from financing, to business plans, to marketing, to finding new customers.
Expansion is the third E, and this is all about growing the companies we’ve got. On this front, Councillor John Brassard and I will be leading a trade mission to Calgary in November of this year, to help introduce Barrie companies to the western Canadian market, and grow their customer base there. More orders for goods and services made in Barrie means more jobs here, today and down the road.
I chose these priorities because they are good roles for the government in supporting the economy – but let’s not forget it’s the private sector that creates real economic growth, and Barrie must attract investment and be a good place to do business if we want to bring more jobs to our city. This means that the City must be a supporter, not a barrier, to investment. Improving customer service and making our approvals processes more consistent and easy to navigate is a major priority for this year, 2012, and beyond.
With real uncertainty in the global economy, jobs and economic development continues to be priority #1.