Team Burlington: What has it done? What can it do? Not one of the city’s strongest operations.

November 18, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Has a Convention ever come to Burlington?  Even a small one?  Doesn’t look as if anyone in the corporate or association world has ever seen Burlington as a destination.  Wonder why?

Part of the reason is the city didn’t really have anything in the way of facilities for a small convention.  All Burlington has is geography – properly promoted one can go a long way with how you look.  Other than water falling over the edge of a cliff – what else has Niagara Falls got going for it?

The Delta Hotel will give the city some first class convention space that could radically change the way the city is seen by the small corporate convention community. Add the Performing Arts Centre to the portfolio and the city has a good offering. Now to put a team in place that could work with the Delta Hotel organization.. We don’t have that in place today.

Burlington now has the Performing Arts Centre and should see shovels in the ground in 2015 when construction starts on the Delta hotel that is part of the Bridgewater development on Lakeshore Road.  The Delta wanted to be open to participate in the Pan Am Games in 2015.  So there is convention potential – even if it is small.

Team Burlington made its annual report to the Development and Infrastructure Standing Committee last week – my colleague at the media table slipped me a note while the presenter droned on – “terrible” she had scribbled on the agenda.  Dismal was my thought.

The Team Burlington partners include City of Burlington, Burlington Chamber of Commerce, Burlington Economic Development Corporation, Burlington Downtown Business Association, Tourism Burlington, Aldershot Village BIA, and Burlington Hydro.

Team Burlington was formed in 2001, one of the former Mayor Rob MacIsaac’s ideas that hasn’t quite jelled – it needs a hard look.    That isn’t likely to happen for some time – the administration is going to have their hands re-formatting the way the city works.  The Tourism potential is there – creating a contact point within the city and promoting the opportunity could begin – even if the city brought someone in on a part-time basis.

The idea in 2001 was to “bring the major city economic development organizations together to form a dynamic team that is focused on the creation of a progressive and vibrant city with a unique approach to business development services. Only a public relations flack could write a sentence like that.

The city is a bit conflicted with what it wants.  The Chilly Half Marathon brings 5000+ people into the city – downtown is certainly vibrant when they are there.  But there is a bunch of people who live along Lakeshore Road who want the city to have the marathon run somewhere else.  That Marathon is one of the best things the city has going for it.  Many people don’t realize that Burlington is seen amongst the running crowd as the place with some of the best races in the province.

For 2012 Team Burlington lists the Mayor’s One Dream as an achievement.  Not something most people would put on their resume.  That event was poorly thought through, was a bit of a disaster from an operational point of view and after spending $50,000 there is yet to be anything in the way of ideas from the two-day event.

The Team Burlington Report says the event “solidified the direction of the city’s Strategic Plan and reinforced the work”.  Poppycock – that event did no such thing.

With the Economic Development Corporation getting a face lift as well as a couple of major organ transplants the purpose of Team Burlington is no longer clear. The city will see some clarity when the revised BEDC format is unveiled at the April 2014 AGM.  Deliverables at BEDC has been pathetic and it is going to take at least six months to stabilize that place.

After sitting through the Team Burlington presentation – “uninspired” is an understatement.

Located in the lower levels of the municipal parking garage on Locust many of the Team Burlington members have modern offices and a decent restaurant with a sidewalk patio.

There was no information – just a recitation of what are close to mickey mouse events.  They had a Christmas gathering – really.  There was one very good event that pulled together hospitality related groups to tie them into the War of 1812 celebrations.  The presenters were as good as it gets, there was a lot of very useful information.  But there was a problem – just one person from the hospitality sector showed up.  The woman who put on the event for Tourism Burlington was a “fire cracker”: focused, motivated, and innovative – but she left town, a decision she made.

The report has statements like this:

“Team Burlington continues to evolve and be recognized as a leading edge and unique business development model, both within our City boundaries and beyond. The Team plans to continue this mandate to support and increase economic development in the City.”  Corporate happy talk at its best.

Why do the people who sign off on these reports let things like this get out to the public? 

 Not sure where the credit for the new signage that is popping up all over town goes.  Good looking stuff – the information needed is all up there.  There are some who quibble with the design.

Everyone in this city talks about the vibrant, progressive downtown – I’ve never managed to see it.  The small Tourism office is filled with brochures telling you everything you ever wanted to know about what is going on in town and the people behind the counters smile and are helpful.

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1 comment to Team Burlington: What has it done? What can it do? Not one of the city’s strongest operations.

  • Jill Stewart

    Why do we always have to get this type of feedback from other sources like the press? Why is this city not capable of providing timely and transparent reporting of the work it conducts on behalf of the people? There’s enough Corporate Fluff given out by city staff to make one vomit.

    Just tell us what have you done, how long it took, what the results are, and what are the next steps. And if that is not possible, then collapse the department or do something else; its only been about 12 years, where are the results. Another example why government needs to stand aside when it comes to business and economic development.