April 20th, 2019

Business Beat: State of the City address gives a glimpse at the future

By Medicine Hat News on January 23, 2019.

The Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Medicine Hat Kiwanis Club, hosts an annual State of the City address each January for our community. This is our opportunity for City of Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston to join us as he provides updates on the progress that has been made and the policy directions for the upcoming year.

For those not familiar with a State of the City, it would be similar to a State of the Union or speech from the throne. Ultimately it is our opportunity to hear directly from the mayor about the successes, challenges, opportunities and impacts to our local region.

As I recently watched the address from a year ago, it highlighted the importance of adding this annual event to your calendar to stay informed and up to date with the activities happening within our community.

With last year’s address following so close on the heels of the municipal election, the 2018 State of the City featured recognition for each of the councillors and highlighted their goals for this council term.

Darren Hirsch mentioned his goal for financial accountability and greater advocacy on behalf of Medicine Hat.

Jim Turner focused on the continued work and expansion in economic development.

Brian Varga was enthusiastic about the new Sport and Event Council and being able to see the economic impact from bringing events into our community.

Julie Friesen spoke about our quality of life and economic vibrancy and highlighted how we can’t have one without the other.

Phil Turnbull was committed to seeing the city become financially sound with the desire to see our utilities move back into a profitable position for our Medicine Hat Advantage.

Jamie MacIntosh cited the need for diversification within our economy and a continued focus on tourism.

Robert Dumanowski was also dedicated to economic development and building a vibrant community.

Kris Samraj was keen to get everyone on the same page, talking about the some of the choices we have, trying to make sure everyone is working well as a team.

Last year’s address also followed closely behind the City’s Strategic Planning session with five strategic priorities that council committed to introduced including:

1. Fiscal responsibility

2. Economic vitality

3. Infrastructure renewal

4. Community safety and vibrancy

5. Sunshine hospitality

Mayor Clugston took this opportunity to speak about investment attraction, referencing several non-disclosure agreements signed for new investment opportunities.

There was also a review of the many new capital projects including Fire Station No. 1 and Fire Station No. 2, the seniors’ centre, the Family Leisure Centre and the 43-megawatt power plant.

The Downtown Development Incentive Program was also highlighted as a success with several transformations in the downtown.

Infrastructure renewal was high on the priority list with Finlay Bridge being highlighted along with transmission line upgrades and the berm construction.

Last year’s address also looked at the River Area Redevelopment Plan and the opportunities we have with our river front, in addition to addressing the need to make a decision on the old arena.

Several events that Medicine Hat had hosted were featured including Rogers Hometown Hockey, the Special Olympics, Little League Nationals, the Canadian Badlands Tourism Conference and Canalta Centre’s Cirque Du Soleil show.

Of course every community has it challenges that need to be addressed. For Medicine Hat, Clugston listed off their need to:

1. Eliminate municipal services reliance on volatile commodity revenues

2. Establish a Heritage Reserve to capture value from commodity based businesses

3. Seek enhanced investment returns

4. Create a stable and predictable tax environment

5. Look at the user pay principles

6. Address market based pricing for utilities

7. Continue rehabilitation of aging infrastructure

There were a number of budget constraints mentioned that they also must deal with, while still trying to continue to close the financially fit gap.

He spoke about our ability to adapt and look at new opportunities and diversification and the need for planning and policy requirements such as the Municipal Development Plan, cannabis policies and an Inter-Municipal Collaboration Framework to name a few.

Some come for the mayor’s poem, some come to learn about Medicine Hat and its direction, others come for networking, but whatever your reason, we encourage you to come, participate, engage and find out about the successes, opportunities, challenges and direction for our city. You’ll be sure to hear about the city’s focus on economic development and the city’s effort to support business development, along with recent wins for the community and what to expect looking forward. The event is being held on Jan. 29 at the Medicine Hat Lodge. The event is open to the public by purchasing a ticket in advance through the Chamber of Commerce website http://www.MedicineHatChamber.com.

Lisa Kowalchuk is the executive director of the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce. For more information on this column or the Chamber, contact 403-527-5214.

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