Economic Recovery Task Force brings forward recommendations to Council
Council received a presentation at the Committee of the Whole meeting on November 3 from the Economic Recovery Task Force. The presentation summed up the consultations that have taken place with stakeholders across various sectors of the economy since May. The Task Force was established to provide advice and recommendations to Council on resources to stimulate local economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Letham extended thanks on behalf of Council to all who have been involved in the process to date and noted, “We heard across the board that investments in our major development projects, downtowns and recreational assets are the best way forward for economic recovery. The Task Force recognized Council’s restraints and instead of asking for large amounts of funding, we looked to reprioritize the plans that were already in motion for the biggest impact in 2021 and beyond.”
Rebecca Mustard, Manager of Economic Development, presented an overview of the path the Task Force has followed and explained that Task Force recommendations coming forward fall into three strategic focus areas: Critical Infrastructure Investments, Planning and Development Stimulus and Business Recovery and Support.
Critical Infrastructure Investments
Improvement of broadband across Kawartha Lakes was the most important priority identified. The City is currently working with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) and the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus (EOWC) on the Gig Project to deliver ultra-fast internet speeds to homes and businesses. On November 4, it was announced by the Province that an additional $680 million is being contributed to connecting homes, farms and businesses across Ontario.
Projects that invest in downtowns, such as the Fenelon Falls and Omemee reconstruction projects, were another priority outlined to ensure continued vibrancy of our downtowns.
Planning and Development Stimulus
In order to improve the efficiency and timeliness of the Planning Application process, a Development Task Force Sub-Committee was established. Three initiatives that came out of this Sub-Committee include:
1. Fast tracking a number of “shovel ready” applications to ensure that these developments begin as quickly as possible. This includes 280 apartment units, 178 townhouses and 300 square metres of commercial development.
2. The creation of a planning application spreadsheet to provide staff, management and the public with more timely responses to inquiries on more than 130 pending applications.
3. The Development Concierge Pilot Project is a nine month project focused on Site Plan applications. This project will not only improve customer service but reduce some of the time Planning staff are required to spend guiding the applicant through the process.
Business Recovery and Support
As the business landscape has changed, so too has the supports that businesses need. The Economic Development division along with its partners, are supporting businesses to upgrade digital skills in marketing and online presence and ensuring they have the tools needed to compete in today’s economy. Many actions have already been taken in 2020 such as continuing the Digital Mainstreet Program, Million Dollar Makeover, Shop Kawartha Lakes and Tourism marketing campaigns and a successful pilot incubator with the Innovation Cluster – Peterborough and the Kawarthas. Additional actions to support business recovery are outlined below and in the Task Force report.
Task Force Recommendations
- Permit fees for park use, patios and events in 2021 be waived, with forecasted reduced revenue be identified in the 2021 budget
- The downtown Fenelon Falls reconstruction project be included as a decision unit in the 2021 capital budget
- An increase in garbage cans and frequency of waste pick up in our downtowns and major parks be costed and included as a decision unit in the 2021 budget
- Portable washrooms and associated directional signage in our downtowns and parks be costed and included as a decision unit in the 2021 budget
- Accelerated investment in our boat launches and trails for improved access and enjoyment be costed and included as a decision unit in the 2021 budget
- Council supports the work of EORN and EOWC for the Eastern Ontario “1 GIG” proposal for increased broadband capacity
- Council directs staff to develop a cultural sector recovery grant program for 2021, which could be applied to operating costs for our arts and culture community, and report back to council on the scope of the program by end of March 2021
- Council approves a modified extension to the Kawartha Lakes Innovation Cluster Pilot program until December 31, 2021, through in-kind support to provide specific support for high growth businesses
Council will consider the adoption of the above recommendations and the Economic Recovery Task Force Action Plan at the November 17 Council meeting. Join the recovery conversation at Jump In, Kawartha Lakes.
Image: John Gillis, President, Innovation Cluster - Peterborough and the Kawarthas, Rebecca Mustard, Manager of Economic Development, Kawartha Lakes