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Stratford considering economic development corporation

Tori Sutton, Staff Reporter

The City of Stratford is considering turning the business of attracting business into its own corporation.

At last week’s meeting, council – while sitting as the economic development committee – gave the green light to call a public meeting on the issue to receive feedback and gauge public response to the idea.

If established, the economic development corporation would operate similar to the Stratford Tourism Alliance, being run by a board of directors made up of city representative and community stakeholders.

According to a report by CAO Ron Shaw, economic development corporations have been created successfully in many communities, including London, Windsor and Waterloo Region.

It’s a concept worth studying considering the success Stratford has had with Festival Hydro Inc. and the Stratford Tourism Alliance, he said.

“The establishment of an economic development corporation, if done well, provides a tremendous opportunity to attract key players from various economic sectors to the board, who will bring their expertise to the economic development table,” stated Shaw, in the report. “Stratford is blessed with a number of these individuals.”

This will allow the city to gain “an important avenue of communication” in many economic sectors, such as automotive, agriculture, medical, information technology and medical, to name a few.

It will guide the development of strategic partnerships to foster economic growth, but will need to develop and articulate a vision and strategy on how to achieve it, he continued.

“If set up well, the corporation should allow the city to further its economic development strategy significantly by bringing in and partnering with the excellent and strategic resources that are available in this community.”

It is suggested the city follow the model currently in use by London, whereby the municipality retains ownership of industrial lands and the corporation markets and negotiates tentative agreements. The city would negotiate and finalize any agreements of purchase and sale.

If community response is positive, it is likely the city will retain a consultant to do an in-depth study.

It’s possible the corporation, which could be called the Stratford Economic Enterprise Development Corporation, would have the mayor, the chair of the economic development committee, CAO and director of corporate services as interim directors.

A recruitment task force would be charged with seeking out board members.

It is recommended the city’s CAO and two members of council sit on the board.

“I think that the key is ensuring that good and effective governance is in place,” Shaw wrote. “In that way we can be assured that it will continue as a strategic and effective body that will further the city’s role and success in economic development.”

The public meeting will be held Monday, April 23.

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