Council close to establishing EDC

Nanaimo city council established a 14-member board Monday to monitor the progress of the city’s fledgling Economic Development Corporation.

The progress board, designed to function until the corporation can operate under full sail, will include Mayor John Ruttan, who will be the board’s chairman, and Couns. Merv Unger and Fred Pattje, who are tasked with seeking out the balance of board members intended to reflect all interests of Nanaimo’s economic development.

On March 14, council directed city staff to proceed with establishing the $1.4-million corporation, which will use start-up capital funded through taxpayers’ money and in which the city will be the single shareholder.

The initiative, spearheaded by Ruttan, is designed to entice development and tourism in Nanaimo. It replaces several overlapping economic development offices that Ruttan identified as inefficient in early 2010.

Optimistically, Coun. Bill Holdom identified the possibility of the corporation eventually paying dividends back to the city, but Ruttan said the purpose of the company is to promote and further economic development in Nanaimo.

“I’m not sure if the intent is for the corporation to be a cash cow,” he said. “But you never know.”

The idea of nearby municipal and regional governments investing in the corporation, giving them shares and votes, was also raised as a possibility.

The first task to establish the corporation is for council to appoint up to 17 unpaid board members (17 will be the maximum, one the minimum), none of whom can also sit on the progress board or city council.

Under agreed upon rules, the corporation will: adhere to the Business Corporations Act; only borrow to an aggregate amount of $5 million with the consent of council; present audited financial statements at a public meeting within 60 days of receipt; the chairman and vice-chairman will be appointed by board directors; be subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; and be subjected to the Community Charter Conflict of Interest legislation.

Al Kenning, city manager, urged allowing the public into corporation meetings, since the company is funded with taxpayer money.

The last step in the company’s establishment is to have the process approved with the province’s Inspector of Municipalities.