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Council endorses economic action plan

After two years of effort, Abbotsford’s economic development action plan was presented to council Dec. 9, listing 10 key initiatives for making the city business-friendly.

The mayor announced the creation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Prosperity – the group tasked with creating the plan – shortly after his election in 2011. Banman said he originally thought the process would take six months.

Dennis Neumann, the chair of the task force and owner of Vaness Development Ltd., said they anticipated the planning to be a “relatively short process,” but said that when you ask the question of how to improve the city’s economic situation, there are many different responses.

The task force included Banman, Coun. Dave Loewen, Coun. Henry Braun, members of the Chamber of Commerce, executive director of the chamber Allan Asaph, Mark Evered, president of the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), and local business owners.

Neumann said they wanted to devise a plan that “wouldn’t just be put on a shelf,” and included an implementation process designed to take place over three years, with recommendations to check  progress every six months.

Among the plans is an outline to review the official community plan (OCP) to help the city plot its land use, as well as neighbourhood planning in areas such as the Historic Downtown and the University District that are experiencing development interest.

It also calls for an improvement in transit and transportation infrastructure to the airport, Tradex and surrounding areas. Additionally, the document encourages innovative land-use plans that would draw agri-business into Abbotsford, and to introduce a revitalization tax exemption to strategic areas of the municipality, as well as developing incentives to draw desired businesses to specific locations.

The plan highlights the importance of supporting the school district and UFV to create education opportunities, and support the continued presence and growth of UFV.

The proposal also states the importance of securing government funds to support international trade and investment and open new markets for Abbotsford-based businesses.

Council endorsed the plan Dec. 9, but removed an item calling for creating a city development corporation so that it could be discussed separately.

Braun said the city needs to consider whether it should be in the development business and consult with taxpayers and local developers.

Deputy city manager Jake Rudolph said staff are looking into types of development corporations and will present the information to council in the new year.

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