September 20th, 2019

City Notebook: Nothing seems to matter more than economic devel…

By COLLIN GALLANT on August 24, 2019.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Despite being a gangly, newspeak term, and terrible to fit into a headline, “economic development” is what they call a talker.

When things are bad, people want to know what’s being done.

When things are good, people want to know how to get in on it.

This week, people want to know what it will look like after council approved a plan to absorb the previously contracted-out file into City Hall, and the contract staff with existing business support efforts.

Wasn’t the whole point to inject some private-sector energy into the effort, many have asked. Wasn’t this model scrapped in the mid-2000s?

The city release clearly poses it as City Hall efforts (i.e. the land and business support office, the utilities and planning departments) “into” Invest Medicine Hat, and not the other way around.

Which is kinda true. “Invest Medicine Hat” has always been a city-owned brand and the group everyone refers to as “Invest Medicine Hat” was a separate company hired to service the contract.

And it’s been under reported that those departments negotiated contracts and closed deals brought to them by Invest and their own efforts.

Top city administrator Bob Nicolay spells out that “Invest” staff will continue commercial relations duties and other department things will operate as before, thereby creating a “full-service” shop under Nicolay.

“It’s a logical next step,” said Ryan Jackson, the former head of Invest Medicine Hat, whose company, Rameco, sold the remaining six months on the contract in March to current lead Jon Sookocheff.

“I liken it to being a start-up – we did the work to take it altitude,” adds Jackson.

Nicolay also made an effort to boost his people’s efforts and attitude to potential business investment.

“The bureaucracy ain’t what it used to be,” he told council.

And there’s always room for doubt.

The move this week might touch on a hanging question in the community about why city land wasn’t involved in two or the three of the largest announcements over the past two years.

In reverse fashion, the move could rekindle arguments from private developers about undue influence and market share for city land sales.

Bus mishap

A busted window was one result Friday when Mayor Ted Clugston took the wheel of a city bus during the transit department’s “Road-eo” driver testing event.

There’ are a few obvious jabs that will be made in the community, but we’ll give a pass. Hey, it’s a big vehicle and how many of us would do better with a camera crew acting as backseat driver?

Politics

It shouldn’t be a total surprise that country music artist George Canyon will run for the Conservative party in his native Nova Scotia, as was announced this week. Some in southeast Alberta will recall that in 2014 Canyon, who lives near High River, was also an early candidate to represent the party in the new riding of Bow River.

A look ahead

We’re steaming toward Labour Day, the Labour Day Classic, the first day of school and the Tigers WHL pre-season opener (Sept. 4, a home game at the Irvine Sportsplex).

100 years ago

Fire swept through Alderson, destroying the entire business centre of the burgeoning town west of Redcliff, the News reported on August 25, 1919.

An overheated stove in the hotel was to blame for the fire that claimed the hotel, six stores, a restaurant, and the office of the Alderson News, and a private residence. The town’s long-distance telephone was in an ice-cream parlor that burned early on in the overnight blaze, thereby cutting off the town. Losses were estimated at $75,000.

Arthur Meighen, minister of the interior and a future prime minister, visited the city to address delegates to the Western Canada Irrigation Association conference.

The Saskatoon Quakers of the Western Canada Baseball League had captured the second-half pennant and would face Winnipeg in the championship.

Andrew Carnegie failed lamentably in his goal to leave this world as a pauper, papers in New York reported as the U.S. steel magnate’s will was opened. The $36-million estate was just one-10th what Carnegie’s net worth was when he began a campaign of charitable endeavours that included the construction of 3,000 libraries.

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664 or via email at cgallant@medicinehatnews.com

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