Many people say it isn’t easy to do business in Edmonton these days. Many of these people are right.
Our office is spending an increasing amount of time advocating for entrepreneurs and business owners trying to deal with city processes.
Mimi’s, a new restaurant in Petrolia Mall, and Lonepine Distillery, a gin maker, near Lendrum are only two examples of investors that very nearly took their money and ran. It took a lot of foot stomping and emailing to make sure their business dreams took hold in our city. Even established a business like the Blue Plate Diner struggled to get a new business license after moving to a new location.
With that being said, however, it can also be said that over the last couple of years, Council has made some good moves to build a better partnership with the business community in Edmonton. There have been some meaningful changes to processes and some success stories. However, with these successes, it’s important to keep our eye on the target.and realize that we are never done making it easier for people to invest in our city.
Gaining an understanding
On November 8, 2016, Council asked administration to look at business competitiveness of Edmonton compared to other Canadian and global cities. This allowed the City to evaluate the weight of tax increases on businesses, explore options to reduce burdens on business, and explore incentives for business attraction for Edmonton.
For years, taxes have been piling up on small and medium-sized businesses and have caused hesitation for some entrepreneurs and business owners. Because of this, in December 2017 Council asked for a report that examines the effect of the collective tax burden on small and medium-sized business, specifically the federal and provincial effects relative to property tax. That report is here.
Taking action from what we learn
Last year we directed administration to work with the development industry to accelerate permit wait times to a 30-45 day benchmark. This move speeds up turn around time for industrial, commercial and larger scale residential permits to allow faster investment and development in Edmonton.
Council also recently committed to a priority-based budgeting approach, which focuses on values and City goals, and streamlines the budgeting process to ensure Edmonton’s values are reflected in what is funded. And of equal importance we can use money spent on lower priorities as opposed to habitual tax increases to fund new higher priorities.
Last week, Council approved a motion to explore moving all of EEDC’s non–tourism and convention tax-supported funding to Edmonton Global, and engage other Edmonton Global shareholders on potentially invest as well in trade and innovation at the Metropolitan scale. This would be a major step forward, distinguishing Edmonton Global as a regional leader in economic development and innovation and increasing our region’s collective focus on making sure Edmonton Metro is an investment friendly region.
Councillor Hamilton tabled a motion last week to reduce the amount of red tape Edmontonians face when starting a business. The motion set a target to reduce the amount of time it takes for a business to get up and running by a third, making success more achievable for entrepreneurs and innovators.
It’s important to acknowledge these successes because we are moving in the right direction. It’s incredibly exciting that what’s mentioned above is visibly working and beginning to shift the City’s relationship with business in Edmonton.
Focus, focus, focus
But with this knowledge, we must keep this momentum going. Edmonton cannot afford bureaucratic inertia – we need focus and movement. The City’s been doing better, but there’s more to do – and focus is essential. Edmonton has the potential to be a success story when it comes to entrepreneurship, innovation, and investment attraction. But if we don’t move quickly and aim our focus on creating an environment where business can thrive, we’re going to miss out on this chance quickly. And with that, we’ll lose young innovators, countless advancements for our city, and many jobs for the people of our city and region.
There’s no time like the present to get better.