Mayor’s trip to Germany part of plans to develop new opportunities for the economic growth of the city.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  June 5, 2013  If you haven’t seen the Mayor around town that’s because he left town – spending a couple of days in Germany on city business.  That should bring howls from those that think the politicians do nothing but spend public money and provide little in return.  They do that in Toronto.

Mayor rick Goldring delivered an address on water to an organization that develops strategies on how to better manage water around the world.  Burlington with its abundance of water will provide a significantly different perspective. 

Mayor Rick Goldring and Kyle Benham, Executive Director of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation, have been hopping across Germany and dropping into Berlin, Munich and Frankfort.

The Mayor was invited to give an address to the German Water Partnership (GWP); a central coordination and contact office of the German water sector serving foreign partners and clients.

Kyle Benham, Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation joined the Mayor on a three day trip to Germany to develop interest in Burlington as a Canadian base for German companies in the water business.

Burlington realized that it has a cluster of some 60 organizations that are involved in the water business and that the Canada Centre for Inland Waters was a leading research institute on water.  The thinking was that there might be some synergies that could result in some much needed economic development.

While we in Ontario seldom think about water as a commodity or a problem other parts of the world are not nearly as fortunate.  Water is a very serious problem in large parts of Africa and the Middle East.  Wars are fought over water.

The GWP is involved in water projects in Palestine, Jordan and Beirut, Lebanon. They put together the umbrella organisation that is now the Arab Countries Water Utilities Association.

The GWP is seen as the leading organizational group focused on water.  They wanted a Canadian perspective and Mayor Goldrring was invited to speak and while there visit with organizations that might look on Burlington as a place to grow their North American operations.

This can be pretty heady stuff – something different for the Mayor who often finds himself bogged down in small local problems.

Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd., a major multi-national in the prescription drug field with a focus on products for the veterinary market has an operation on the South Service Road.  While in Germany the Mayor will be meeting with some of the head office people.

Centre for Inland Waters, a federal facility that may have the potential to spearhead some economic development.

Burlington is home to Canada Centre for Inland Waters where the National Laboratory for Environmental Testing, , a fully accredited environmental analysis capability for a wide range of organic and inorganic chemicals, including a specialization in low level metals and the analysis of organic contaminants.

In addition to laboratory research, work carried out at the National Laboratory for Environmental Testing involves engineering and technical operations, such as the planning and management of field sampling programs.

This is all pretty technical stuff but a vital part of the water business and something Burlington just might manage to build into something that could become an industrial and commercial focus for the city and perhaps put some of the “economic development” land we have for sale to use.

The decision to make the trip to Germany came out of the realization that Burlington has a number of companies that are in the water business. About 60 actually.  Economic development types call that a cluster – and clusters are very good for economic growth.

Burlington’s economic development corporation is in the middle of a re-development of its own – moving away from putting on events, retaining the companies that are doing business in Burlington and looking for newer opportunities for the city.

The change in focus bumped into a stunning surprise when the city realized that the income from Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) tax sources was going to be a negative number for 2013 – less than it was for 2012.  That was not a good sign for a city that has reached the build out point in terms of large new housing developments.  There is the Eagles Heights development in the north east and the Tremaine Road/Dundas development on the drawing boards and after that it is all infill.

Burlington does have a lot of land that is defined as “employment lands” but very little of that is shovel ready which in the minds of the economic development people means they can begin to build in a short period of time.  Some of the developers are not all that keen on seeing land used for ICI type construction when, in their minds, they can build houses which provide a significantly larger financial return.

These conflicting interests put Burlington in an awkward financial spot – we have the land for new business; the developers don’t want ICI type construction; the city faces a situation where the money needed to run the city for an aging population isn’t what it used to be; that population will need more in the way of services and the city faces a massive expense to repair the infrastructure.  The cost of getting our roads up to snuff is reported to be $18 – annually.

Pasquale (Pat) Paletta will be inducted as 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year Thursday evening at the Burlington Convention Centre

Given that kind of a scenario a Mayor might be forgiven for wanting to go to Germany and staying there.  Our Mayor is hoping that his trip to Germany will interest companies over there into coming here – and using some of that “economic development” land we have for sale.

International Harvester is in the process of getting ready to move out of the Harvester Road and Guelph Line property. Emshie Developments either has it on the market or is looking for an opportunity to get a new client into what is really industrial space on the corner of two of the busier streets in the city.  There is perhaps a better use for that land.

It will be interesting to hear what the Mayor has to say when he returns.  He will land in Toronto on Thursday and head directly to the Economic Development Corporation dinner to celebrate Pat Paletta, founder of the company that is the largest holder of economic development land in the city.

Pasquale (Pat) Paletta will be inducted as 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year. Mr. Paletta is the founder of what is known today as Paletta International Corporation. He started the company in 1964 with a 10,000 sq.ft meat packing plant, today the facility is over 200,000 sq.ft. They export to over 17 countries worldwide, in addition have developed 1000s of residential units, constructed over 500,000 sq.ft of buildings, developed 100s of acres of property for retail and employment, farm thousands of acres, and expanded in to film, media and entertainment. Burlington has always been home for the Paletta Corporation.

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