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Dec 14, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

A Path to Prosperity includes $60 million price tag

London Community News

The price tag for London’s economic prosperity could be $60 million over the next 10 years should council approves the initial five projects proposed by the city’s prosperity committee.

The Investment and Economic Prosperity Committee (IEPC) unveiled details of its report, A Path to Prosperity, on Thursday (Dec. 13) during a media conference at city hall. Mayor Joe Fontana, joined by other members of the IEPC committee, said the report lays out a long-term plan for the city’s future.

“This is one of the best days for London. Finally, how we are going to be moving forward in building a fantastic city over the next 10 years,” Fontana said. “The report speaks to how we are going to leverage investment for the City of London. It is $60 million over 10 years. That translates into over $500 million in investment into our community.”

Of the five proposals, three have already received considerable discussion from both council and the broader community. Those three proposals include development of serviced industrial lands, redevelopment of London Hydro property for residential and commercial use, and competing proposals by the Grand Theatre and Music London for a mixed use arts centre development.

The other two, less well-known proposals, include creation of a medical research fund and financing of a joint proposal from two employment support programs for one year on a pilot basis.

IEPC chair and Ward 3 Councillor Joe Swan said it was important the five proposals were put through a “job creation funnel” to identify what projects were most ready to move forward.

The report suggests the creation of 1,100 jobs for downtown developments, along with up to 2,700 job placements.

“We went through our business analysis to find the brightest and best ideas we felt would impact job creation the most in the city of London,” Swan said. “This game plan sets the direction, provides a beacon of hope for our community that London will again rise in prominence as the most dynamic, prosperous community in Ontario.”

Full details of the proposals will come on Tuesday (Dec. 18) during the regular IEPC meeting, starting at 4 p.m. However, some details were provided to the media during Thursday’s announcement.

Among the highlights:

-       - it is expected to $40 million over the next 10 years to purchase and prepare “shovel ready” industrial lands;

-       - the city will partner with Kilmer Brownfield Equity Fund to redevelop the London Hydro lands at 111 Horton St. E.;

-       - as part of the Grand Theatre’s expansion plan, the city could transfer over a city parking lot on Queens Avenue, valued at approximately $2 million; while the Music London proposal would see the city provide $10 million in funding over 10 years;

-       - the city would commit $1 million per year for 10 years to help support medical research; and

-       - the city would invest approximately $101,000 to help fund the joint proposal of two employment support programs for retraining workers.

The municipal portion of the IEPC plan would see London taxpayers come up with $6 million per year for the 10 years of the plan. With that in mind, Fontana acknowledge the public will questions how the city will afford any of these initiatives in light of the zero percent tax target.

“The biggest single piece, and I know the question that is going to be asked, is how are you going to pay for this,” Fontana said. “The financial plan being developed by Martin (city treasurer Martin Hayward) and his group and that will come forward to council some time in January so it dovetails with the budget.”

When asked if the controversial one per cent economic development levy was once again on the table, Fontana said all options are available, including raising taxes, increasing debt or selling city assets. However, he was “confident” the funding would be found.

“We are going to wait of the financial plan and wait for the budget. Within that budget of $1 billion there is a lot of things you can do,” Fontana said. “That $6 million investment in the first year allows us to leverage about $60 million.”

For his part, Swan said upcoming budget discussions are the proper place to debate financing of the five projects. And those discussions, Swan said, focus on three primary components: controlling the cost of government, protecting essential services and planning for investment and jobs in London.

The mayor said he expected the rest of council to be supportive of the five projects once all the details come forward.

“There is always devil in the details, but I am confident that every member of council is concerned that jobs are number one,” Fontana said. “We need to get this city moving on the jobs front, on the assessment growth front, and I am not sure you will find much opposition to that.”

The public will be invited to provide input on the plan and the proposed projects early in the New Year. The complete report is available online at www.london.ca or www.prosperityforlondon.ca.

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