A business-friendly city is a recovery-friendly city.
3 ways to make Edmonton a plug-and-play business hub.
I have represented Edmonton at thousands of meetings and conferences over my time as an elected official. I am used to describing what Edmonton is like, what our values are, and that no, we are not that close to Toronto. But in the last few years, I have noticed that more and more people don’t need an explanation. Edmonton is becoming a globally-recognized city thanks to our destination festivals, award-winning food scene, amazing green spaces, and flagship tech companies. But I want to make sure we are also known as a hub for businesses of all sizes and sectors. That is why I have worked with my Council colleagues, business advocacy groups, and local leaders to make sure Edmonton is set up to welcome businesses of all sizes and the revitalization they bring.
Becoming a business-friendly city is good for more than just owners. By growing our business and industrial sector, we grow our tax base. Edmonton’s current revenue from non-residential property tax makes up 46% of our total tax collected. This sector is a key partner in our economic and cultural revitalization.
We have already seen how the business community has benefited from Edmonton’s competitive landscape. Big businesses are choosing to locate in Edmonton like Air Products which announced their intent to build a new $1.3 billion net-zero hydrogen complex in our city creating 2,500 new jobs. Air Products picked Edmonton because they view us as competitive, both provincially and nationally, when it comes to taxes and streamlined processes for a major city.
Local businesses like the award-winning Trial & Ale brewery are also seeing big returns thanks to support from our business initiatives. Since launching, Trial & Ale has expanded twice and won multiple Alberta Beer awards! “We would not be in business today if it wasn't for the City’s small business team,” Ryan, co-owner of Trial and Ale says.” Read more about their small business successes here.
We are off to a great start, but I will continue to advocate to keep Edmonton attractive for businesses big and small. Here are 3 big ways I am pushing Edmonton to become a hub for business in a competitive global market.
1. Service level guarantees for permitting and licensing
Our city has already made huge improvements in permitting and licencing timelines. We are second best out of 23 Canadian cities for requirements, fees, and approvals timelines. And we have reduced the wait for a business licence from 20 days to 10 days when a building permit is not required thanks to process improvements and automation.
By improving regulatory services, we have already saved Edmonton’s planning and development customers an estimated 260,933 days and $4.6 million in delay costs annually.
The next step is to guarantee service levels. Yesterday, I put forward a motion which was passed in Committee asking Administration to return with an approach to establish and implement permit and licence service level guarantees to support business growth and retention, and investment attraction to Edmonton.
2. Evaluate how the City’s Economic Action Plan is working for under-represented businesses and entrepreneurs
As we welcome investment in our City, we must be prepared to set new and existing businesses up for success. Edmonton should be an easy, convenient, and affordable place to do business. I campaigned on the need to transform the way the City interacts with businesses and I am excited to hear that principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion have been incorporated into our Business Friendly Edmonton Initiative.
We need to make it easier for equity-seeking groups to navigate City processes. The City is taking steps to remove barriers by making the grant program application process easier for people who speak English as a second language. This also includes cutting the amount of paperwork for low-risk grant applications to make it easier for the applicant as well as lowering administrative time.
Economic opportunities are a part of reconciliation. I want to celebrate the efforts of Business Friendly Edmonton and their efforts to remove barriers for Indigenous entrepreneurs and business owners. However, I also want to make sure we are achieving our intended outcomes. I want to get to a point where we can demonstrate to the community that the steps we are taking are making a positive difference.
That is why, today I asked Administration to prepare a memo that will inform Council on the performance management framework for the City’s Economic Action Plan including appropriate approaches for monitoring, evaluating and reporting on the effectiveness of programming intended to support under-represented businesses and entrepreneurs.
3. Make industrial zones plug-and-play for big investment
Some of the biggest logistics companies in the world are looking to locate in Edmonton, but we need to move faster and capitalize on these opportunities. Our industrial vacancy rate is at a five-year low and going down, while rental rates are steadily increasing for planned industrial developments. There is a need for strategic infrastructure investments to open up and increase connectivity to industrial land in the City. For example, completing the off ramps from Anthony Henday Dr. to 137 Avenue could open up 300 acres of industrial land. This is just one project that is very compelling to me.
I have been hearing from industry partners that need plug-and-play large industrial land. This is so important for investors in industrial manufacturing, transport and logistics, and other industrial sectors. So earlier this month, I asked for clarity on how these types of projects are being prioritized for the upcoming budget.
My motion was that Administration provide a report that outlines the prioritized industrial infrastructure projects under consideration for the 2023–2026 capital budget including road connections on Anthony Henday and 137 Avenue to open up industrial development in the northwest. I also asked that the report provide details on the evaluation criteria used as well as the anticipated outcomes and benefits of each project.
I am very optimistic that Edmonton can be a place where doing business is most convenient and affordable. Becoming Business Friendly requires cross-organizational support. Our commitment to this progress is ongoing and has been a result of major cooperation and collaboration across the entire City organization and with key partners such as Edmonton Global, Innovate Edmonton and Explore Edmonton. We must celebrate and promote that we are open for business to grow our business community and non-residential tax base and help Edmonton recover from the difficulties of the pandemic. A vibrant business community is key to our recovery.
Find more about business supports here.