City focusing on attracting investment for industrial land next year

Deep, shallow utility services installation will help lure investors, foster economic development

There’s been a lot of talk about city plans for industrial lands formerly owned by Tembec.

During budget discussions over the fall, council and staff spent a lot of time debating different approaches and the scale of development for the lands.

Acquired for $3 million last year, the vision from Mayor Lee Pratt has been to use the the 99 acres of land to attract economic development by luring industry to set up operations on parcels so that the city can collect lease revenue in perpetuity.

However, the city is also looking at the potential of land sales as well, which would complement property tax revenues with lease revenues, all the while creating jobs and fostering economic activity.

Since purchasing the property, the city has awarded three contracts worth $529,000 that will deliver an engineering and geotechnical report ($200,000), an environmental report ($244,000) and a property analysis ($85,000). All of those three are expected to be complete in the new year.

While there was no business case study done before the land purchase, the property analysis currently underway will help guide marketing strategies for investors, developers and other business interests, according to the city.

“Over the past few years we have had a number of enquiries regarding availability of investment ready industrial land. This will fill that void we have had and make this area attractive to new industries and the relocation and expansion of existing businesses,” said Mayor Pratt, in a news release.

Going forward for 2020, the city has committed $2.5 million for the installation of deep utility services and a further $2.75 million for shallow utilities and a road. Additional costs in the 2020 budget include $370,000 for environmental restoration, $30,000 for fibre conduit, and $30,000 for marketing costs.

All told, with current costs and budgeted 2020 expenses, the city is into the industrial lands project for $9.3 million. The city notes that all project costs are coming from reserves and accumulated surpluses, with plans to pursue any available provincial or federal infrastructure grant programs.

Part of the challenge with the industrial land was coming up with a development plan — do it all in one massive master stroke, or do it in a staged and phased approach?

During budget discussions, council seemed to favour a staged approach, dropping an ambitious $8.8 million plan for the installation of shallow utilty services in favour of the $2.75 million plan that was eventually approved.

Darren Brewer, the city’s Business Development Officer, said the eventual goal is to create an environment for sustainable development.

“We’re exploring ideas in sustainability, design and economic modelling to create a long-term strategy for economic development,” said Brewer, in a news release. “We hope to pilot new ideas and strategies to build our competitive advantage and grow our economy.

“We want to achieve a new standard for development in the Kootenays, providing new and innovative opportunities for economic growth for our citizens, while creating the blueprint for an ecologically-friendly industrial culture.”

Currently, there are two businesses that are operating on the lands. C&C Wood Products took advantage of some infrastruture left by Tembec and restarted operations at a finger-joint plant, while Caliper has also set up operations on site.

“Once this development is completed and fully occupied, it will be a large complement to the existing business community of Cranbrook,” Mayor Pratt said. “Over time this will be a huge economic driver for the City and adding to the services we provide to the surrounding area.”

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