The need for speed

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East River Solutions employees Todd Stevens and Steven Van Damme show off a CNC lathe during the firm's open house Thursday afternoon. East River was founded by local entrepreneurs with experience in the metal working sector.
East River Solutions employees Todd Stevens and Steven Van Damme show off a CNC lathe during the firm’s open house Thursday afternoon. East River was founded by local entrepreneurs with experience in the metal working sector.

During the official opening of a Wallaceburg metal working business last week, much was made about the speed at which the economy changes.

We hope the politicians in attendance were paying attention.

A case in point is the news this week that the municipality is entertaining offers from realtors to market the 100 acres at the Bloomfield Industrial Park on Highway 401.

What should be prime industrial property (at least consultants, staff and council said so) has pretty much been sitting idle for the better part of a decade.

Chatham Mazda from Chatham Voice on Vimeo.

The question is, why did it take so long to realize we needed help? Where was the direction from mayor and council to speed things up or at least determine why we couldn’t complete a deal?

The site was purchased for $1.4 million and despite taxpayers spending several times the purchase amount in servicing and marketing the property, there are only three businesses located there.

Add in the lost taxes and the cost of interest on debt to purchase the land and it’s in danger of becoming an industrial equivalent of the Capitol Theatre.

The price per acre has dropped from $70,000 to $50,000 and it’s all but certain any interested business should be able to cut a deal for less than that amount.

There is no doubt the 2009 recession impacted sales, but the park wasn’t booming before that. It is interesting to note that London is involved in preparing large tracts of property development and Woodstock has been a force to be reckoned with for years.

Whether it was price or lack of marketing, we need to realize that we can’t adopt a “build it and they will come” mentality. We need to be aggressive, something our current economic development department seems to understand.

Highway 401 remains Ontario’s economic artery, a fact that won’t soon change. If council strikes a marketing deal and is flexible on price, we should soon see some action.

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