Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Email to Nanaimo Mayor and Council —
A Couple of Quick Thoughts and a Suggestion

Subject: Quick thoughts and a suggestion...
Date: 17 April, 2013 1:02:03 PM PDT
To: Mayor&
Cc: " Angus"

Mayor Ruttan and Nanaimo City Councillors,

A couple of quick thoughts re VICC GM Denise Tacon's presentation to the last Council meeting.

A HR pro would probably not recommend the approach, but full marks for nerve I guess. Facing her board of directors in a performance review where she is delivering very disappointing numbers, her approach was to deflect attention to externals such as the global economic climate and a handful of local noisy nay-sayers. It did appear to elicit some commiseration and sympathy from some Councillors so I guess it wasn't a bad tactic after all.

On a much more important note, I had the feeling that she was unable to answer, to some Councillors' satisfaction, questions about  projected revenues, multiplier ratios, and the volume and analysis of "millions of dollars injected into the local economy". These are very difficult to quantify but I'm sure you all agree it's important we have as clear and accurate a picture of them as possible.

I want to focus on one element, the contribution of delegate spending in the local economy. That it exists and is positive, there's no question. Proponents of sports arenas and new enterprises promising jobs, have and will ask Council to consider this economic jolt when asked to invest local taxpayer capital directly or indirectly in the form of property tax or other concessions. This is what I ask you to consider: as you know better than anyone your ability to raise funds comes almost exclusively from property taxes and user fees and licences. The net amount that justifies an investment of local taxpayer capital is the dollar figure from those sources that comes back to City Hall. Millions of dollars spent in restaurants, hotels and bars is good for the economy and good for the general vitality of downtown — and the region  — but is there a at least modest return on investment in quantifiable recoverable dollars and over time contributions to returning the original capital to the City's treasury for reinvestment. The abstract, but laudable, goal of raising the City's profile by showcasing Nanaimo to visitors can IMO only be justified as gravy, never as ROI.

I hope you'll take a minute (three minutes actually) to look at these videos from the Strong Towns organization. They are helping cities large and small come up with innovative ways to tackle problems in these challenging and quickly changing times.

If you're still with me, a suggestion: our VICC should be proactively developing its own content to supplement its hall-rental function (state of the art rental hall that it is). Recently the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation co-sponsored a high profile speaker for instance and reportedly filled the Port Theatre. A model there perhaps for NEDC to get involved in assembling a key note speaker followed by some days of seminars, training sessions, etc. All booked and marketed months in advance. New revenue streams for the VICC and further positioning of Nanaimo as a modern, sophisticated little city in a location that's the envy of the rest of county.

Frank Murphy

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