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Financial incentives aimed at promoting development


In a further effort to promote property development and revitalization in Fort Frances, local economic development officer Geoff Gillon delivered a draft copy of a report outlining proposed financial incentive programs (FIP) to town council during its regular meeting Monday night.

Gillon noted the town’s Community Incentive Plan (CIP) created back in 2003, which had been approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, set out several goals for development within Fort Frances and proposed several incentive programs to encourage that development.

Over the years, the town used these incentives “prudently to support redevelopment, community social services stabilization, and capital investment by the community’s main employer.”

But Gillon also pointed out, “each use of the FIP has required staff time and council time to negotiate, making their use rare and the process to apply complex.”

Gillon said the new report offers “streamlined” programs that will “increase the occurrence and impact across the community, of financial incentives,” all the while reflecting the town’s planning goals and complying with provincial regulations regarding tax forgiveness.

The goals for the new FIP are to:

•encourage residential, commercial, and industrial expansions that will increase assessment in either class without directly negatively impacting existing residential, commercial, and industrial property assessments;

•encourage growth within the existing infrastructure web; and

•create simplified programs with clear applications to ensure transparency, marketability, and use.

The four FIP in the draft report include:

•Property Value Revitalization Program

This program is designed to stimulate new development, as well as redevelopment of vacant and under-utilized lands and buildings.

Developing and improving properties within existing serviced neighbourhoods and commercial districts encourages community pride, improves property values for adjacent properties, and minimizes future infrastructure investments;

•Diversification Development Program

This program is designed to encourage growth and stabilization in both jobs and municipal tax revenue for the community.

Developments or redevelopments of properties for commercial/industrial uses in sectors such as manufacturing, processing, machining, environmental, and technology-related businesses such as call centres and non-competitive professional services are eligible;

•Brownfields Development Program

A joint-program of the province and town, it is designed to encourage brownfields development (brownfields are abandoned or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contaminations).

The program is designed to mitigate the costs of developing on brownfields by providing financial incentives to clean them up and replace them with productive economic uses, thereby improving both economic opportunities and environmental conditions in the town; and

•Facade Loan Program

This program helps improve the appearances of commercial properties throughout Fort Frances.

Smaller scale commercial activities contribute greatly to the economic vitality and health of the commercial sector within town. This program builds upon these successes, resulting in long-lasting physical improvements to the assets of commercial property owners/authorized tenants and to bring about aesthetic improvements to the commercial areas.

This program would run in conjunction with the Rainy River Future Development Corp., utilize FedNor funds, and incur no cost to the town.

All programs come with specific guidelines, including a “return on investment” analysis, but what they have in common is that they do not involve transferring existing revenues from the town to the business or individual but are based on “new revenue.”

“Basically, we are sharing the new taxes for a short period,” explained Gillon.

For example, a Property Value Revitalization Program grant would include a 25 percent reduction on waste disposal fees for any demolition or other municipal in-kind service up to 50 percent of the value of taxation increase resulting from the improvements, and a 25 percent reduction by grant in lieu of taxes each year for two years after completion of improvements (increase value portion only).

Gillon stressed to council that he put together the draft report with the help of town staff.

Municipal planner Faye Flatt and clerk Glenn Treftlin tracked down the information on legislation services and confirmed the approval authorities while treasurer Laurie Witherspoon and others punched in numbers to calculate accurate returns on investment.

Council referred the draft copy of the report to the Administration and Finance, Operations and Facilities, and Planning and Development executive committees and Economic Development Advisory Committee for their recommendations.

Gillon said once council approves the report, he would like to move forward by developing new FIP applications, as well as creating advertisements and marketing materials to let the community know what’s available.

Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig said the recommendation for revisions to the town’s FIP came out of the Economic Development Advisory Committee some time ago, and felt the EDAC now would be eager to look at the report.

“It’s very well done. I like the four-pronged attack,” noted Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft, adding the return on investment for most of the programs has a turnaround of only a couple of years.

“[The report] is very well done. I’m glad to see where moving in that direction,” echoed Mayor Roy Avis.

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