Chestermere’s Mayor Marshall Chalmers attended his first Mayor’s Breakfast at the Landing Nov. 16.
Hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, the record 90 attendees had the opportunity to listen as both Mayor Chalmers and the city’s outgoing Economic Development Manager Jean-Marc Lacasse spoke about economic development in Chestermere.
“We need to increase our non-residential tax base,” said Chalmers.
Currently the city has a non-residential tax base of about four per cent.
“My experience is that in a healthy community, we should be working towards a 75/25 70/30, so that tells me we have a long way to go,” he said.
He said that this more balanced tax base is needed to help alleviate the tax burden on city residents and to improve the quality of life in the city.
“We need these services and businesses here to ensure our community is a healthy affordable and sustainable place to live and work,” said Chalmers.
One of the major projects towards this goal that the city has already undertaken is the development of the new Webster Industrial Park.
“A great deal of work is already underway and there is some exciting new developments coming along that will support our goal,” said Chalmers.
In his remarks to the audience, Chalmers said that first step the new council is taking towards that goal is to open a dialogue with businesses in the city.
They want to know exactly what businesses owners see as challenges and opportunities and what kind of support they need to thrive in Chestermere.
“Local businesses are the backbone of our community,” he said.
With that in mind, Chestermere’s economic development department has partnered with the chamber on a survey to find out how the city can better support local businesses.
“We know that part of the solution is to support you as an existing business community,” said Chalmers.
He described the business owners and members of the chamber of commerce as a key part to the future development of a healthy business community in the city.
Since all members of council are new, they have been hard at work attending orientation sessions on the topics and challenges facing the city.
Chalmers said that he and the rest of city council have spent over 40 hours in orientation sessions to familiarize themselves with what the city and previous council have been doing to promote businesses and growth in Chestermere.
He said that all of the new city council heard loud and clear in their campaigns for office that economic development is one of the priorities of Chestermere residents.
“The topics that we believe matter most to our residents…taxes, CUI, capital projects and economic development just to name a few,” he said.
When it comes to economic development, Chalmers said that the issue of keeping businesses open in Chestermere needs a closer look in the coming weeks.
“We as council are just learning about the extent of which we’re losing businesses in Chestermere,” he said.
A major driver behind the loss of business in Chestermere is the high number of residents who work and shop outside of Chestermere.
Described by Lacasse as leakage, the loss of consumer dollars to Calgary and other surrounding communities is a major stumbling block facing business in Chestermere.
To help stem the leaks, Chalmers said that more local employment is, “a big priority for me and I’m sure for council.”
Greatly helping in both the economic diversification of the city and the potential for more local employment is the city’s continued growth.
Lacasse explained in his presentation that with an increasing population Chestermere becomes more attractive to more businesses.
“We’ve passed the 20,000 [population], which is great,” he said.
Lacasse said that there are a lot of retail companies out there that are much more interested in opening in a community after it passes that 20,000-population threshold.