Ryan's Blog

Innovation and Destination Development ready for liftoff in Belleville

The Economic and Destination Development Committee is off the ground. It’s been a bumpy ride, but we are off. I am proud to Chair this committee, tasked with developing a strategy on economic and destination development for the City of Belleville, something that has never existed.

That’s job #1.

This committee is a revenue generator, meant to look at all ways to which we can increase revenue for the city to help with the onerous task of keeping taxes low and looking at way that we can boost income without increasing taxes, and developing a more comprehensive policy around destination development including tourism.

That means new businesses, more residents, and new clusters of innovation, new visitors, immigration, and new investors to our city. It requires new thinking, a fresh start, and looking outside our city and regional bubble. I’ve been working on this for the better part of 15 years and I know this much: We unfortunately won’t be able to just flip a switch, and it will be done. This work is going to have to be strategic and bold, inventive, competitive, and exhaustive.

This will be committee driven and developed as a team, an amazing team just voted in this week, with many different skillsets, who will bring many various ideas and experience to which we will build a strategy. These include Karla Brennen, a hospitality professional who was the GM of the Drake in the County, Chad Guziewicz who just brought a tech company, Tire Wizard, and with it 15 employees, from Picton to downtown Belleville. Stephanie Stickler has an MBA in Finance, and will be a great asset. Blair Gamble, GM of the Travelodge, brings tourism experience from London, Ontario. And Emilie Leneveu is a Loyalist College all-star, involved with Enactus, Loyalist’s Graduate Marijuana Program, and much more. They join the Chamber of Commerce, immensely important to me for their voice of business mandate, and Councillor’s Kelly, McCaw, and Culhane.

They will all bring great skills and backgrounds to form a new strategy.

For my comments, I feel we will need to embrace and support entrepreneurs, work closer with our economic zones including our downtown, east and west Dundas, N Front, and more, have a more comprehensive strategy on immigration and skilled job attraction, and look at ways we help existing companies grow in our city. We will need to develop a strategy to capitalize on our economic sistership of Gunpo, South Korea, and continue to develop and monitor our waterfront activation with our Pop-Ups.

A single strategy, initially, could also include the basic revenue generation of building more ‘units’ for housing, and enticing more people to live in Belleville. But it’s not that simple. We have a skilled worker shortage in building more homes. Builders in Belleville are already at the maximum capacity, and some have even scaled back. These workers we are missing aren’t front line workers, they are the master carpenters, electricians, and plumbers that oftentimes start new companies. If we were to increase our housing production by even half, it would require hundreds of them. This strategy becomes more onerous given the state of our affordable housing crisis as well.

Each unit that is added to the deck in Belleville brings in a revenue for the city, but it’s more than that. Each house, apartment, or condo that brings in people, add to this great community. That means, hopefully, more young families that are working, more people that are finding us a great place to retire, and more people that are bringing great ideas to start businesses in our community.

Without people, in all aspects, we rely on those that already live here to shoulder the spending decisions that come down to Belleville City Council, operating, and capital.

It’s great to have the new Economic and Destination Development Committee off the ground, with a great slate of board members all eager to get to work. Pay close attention to the work that will come from this board, as I promise you it will be interesting, but moreover, ever important to our future, and our children’s.