Economic corporation one step closer to autonomy

According to the terms of the agreement, the city will provide $1.37 million to the NEDC in return for economic development and tourism services that will benefit Nanaimo.

The City of Nanaimo officially entered into a partnership agreement with the newly developed Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation Monday, which will allow the city to help the organization carry out its mandate under the Community Charter.

The agreement stipulates the city will provide $1.37 million in return for economic development and tourism services that will benefit Nanaimo.

The agreement, which has a term of 20 years, will allow the city to assist the corporation through grants and loans, as well as property transfers. The city will also, for now, be the sole shareholder in the corporation, but that could change if nearby municipalities and regional districts express interest.

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan created the corporation after determining in early 2010 that the former economic development office and other city-run economic and tourism offices were not transparent enough and were underperforming, despite enjoying a $1.5-million budget.

The move also means Tourism Nanaimo will no longer receive city funding.

“There is excitement around this and that’s the reason it was set up,” said Ruttan. “Around a year and a half ago I was starting to get some feedback from the business community wondering why the economic development office was run by the city and why there wasn’t more input from business owners or more information provided. I felt there needed to be a great deal more information out there for both council and local business.”

Already approved by the province, the corporation has just one more step to take before it can move forward – hire an economic development officer. Ruttan said the short list is down to two candidates and that the 17-member board will make the final decision.

“Both candidates appear to be of a very high calibre and both have the attributes and background that we’re looking for,” said Ruttan. “A decision is expected in the coming weeks, but it’s important that as many of the board members as possible are present to contribute to the decision.”

Once an economic development officer is hired, the city will turn over its economic development responsibilities.

While the corporation is designed to operate as a separate entity, a 14-member progress board, which includes council representatives, was established to monitor the fledgling organization’s operations. The corporation will also operate under the rules and regulations of the Business Corporations Act.