PAUL FORSYTH/Niagara This Week
Regional politicians agreed this week to bring a bylaw to regional council next Thursday, which would eliminate regional development charges for new industrial projects for two years.
The move comes just months after the Region more than doubled the fee it charges per square foot of new industrial space, and about a month after the Niagara Industrial Association made an urgent request to the Region’s development charges task force for the fee break.
Association director Roy Timms told politicians on Wednesday that the move would send a powerful message to potential investors across the province that Niagara is open for business.
“(It’s) a very positive selling factor to show how Niagara is welcoming and encouraging investment,” he said, noting an Asian company that considered building a large plant in Niagara a few years ago went to another region where development charges were lower.
“It (fee elimination) will be heard loud and clear,” said Timms.
Regional staff said that based on previous fees paid by the industrial sector, the two-year fee elimination could cost about $200,000.
St. Catharines Coun. Andy Petrowski said property taxpayers will likely get a return many times that in terms of new investment.
Niagara Falls Coun. Selina Volpatti said the end goal is not to benefit industries. “It’s to increase the jobs in Niagara” through new businesses and the expansion of existing businesses, she said.
But St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan, who joined colleagues on a regional committee in unanimously supporting the fee elimination idea, cautioned it can take much longer than two years for new businesses to get off the ground.
“Two years (of no fees) is probably not enough,” he said.