City economic arm to get overhaul

With the Terrace Economic Development Authority being phased out, the city and chamber of commerce discuss future

The City of Terrace says it will work together with the Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce to reformat the municipality’s economic development program following council’s vote to terminate its contract with the Terrace Economic Development Authority (TEDA).

Council’s decision at the July 13 regular council meeting to terminate the $165,000 contract with TEDA is effective Sept. 30 and came about after a close vote held in camera.

Created in 1999, TEDA has employed both an economic development officer and front end staffer to perform various functions related to attracting and facilitating commerce in the city and area.

Councillors Stacey Tyers, Michael Prevost, James Cordeiro and Mayor Carol Leclerc voted in favour of closing up the organization, while councillors Lynne Christiansen, Brian Downie and Sean Bujtas voted against the motion.

According to TEDA board chair Rob Dykeman, the city’s new plan to combine the role of TEDA’s economic development officer with the internal city position of corporate lands manager might be an attempt at increased efficiency on the city’s part, but that something will be lost in translation.

Remaining an arms-length organization, Dykeman argues, would have allowed for TEDA to continue its tradition of “dialog with businesses so they can have a non-biased, non-political viewpoint on their business or their business opportunities.”

Now that the economic development officer position will be in-house, Dykeman said that healthy distancing will be compromised.

And while the city could save money by combining the positions and boost community grant spending which used to pay for TEDA, Dykeman remains concerned.

“That money paid for wages and marketing and promotion of Terrace, I feel it was money well spent,” he said.

In a press release last week, Leclerc argued that shuttering TEDA and making its mandate one internal to the city will “also improve the free flow of information between city departments related to economic development, and provide the business community and investors with a direct line to the city and council.”

A new, internal economic development officer position will be created to fill the old external economic development officer role with the added duties of the corporate lands manager position, Leclerc explained.

The corporate lands manager position was created several years ago and was held by city official Herb Dusdal until he quit this winter to take a private sector job with local construction company Nechako Northcoast.

His main role at the city was managing the city’s real estate portfolio, with the central piece being the Skeena Industrial Development Park.

The city’s decision to end TEDA leaves a number of duties to be divided between the city and the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce who also plans to get involved.

Avison said $50,000 of the $165,000 budgeted for TEDA came from the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

“We will continue to apply for the funding from Northern Development to support our in-house economic development function,” she said.

And chamber president Val Gauvin said her organization will be involved in hosting trade shows and putting together the ad-dollar driven Industrial Resources Service Directory.

Profit from this print and online directory, including some already saved by TEDA, Gauvin says should be used for the chamber’s new venture, something she plans to include in a forthcoming proposal to be submitted to the city.

“Within that proposal we will be putting in that the chamber will take on the numerous duties that TEDA did that the city can’t really do,” she said.

She added that the proposal will include keeping the front end position and “moving the chamber into the TEDA building,” which TEDA is currently leasing.

The new organization could be called the Terrace Business Resource Centre, and would exist as an operational department within the chamber’s structure, she added.

Gauvin says added that the chamber would expect to have financial support from the city for the first six to 12 months after the dissolution of TEDA.

“The chamber doesn’t have all the resources to take all of that on,” said Gauvin.