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While the significance of infrastructure is generally recognized, the economic benefits are difficult to quantify. Different types of businesses have different infrastructure requirements. Shopping centres require good roads to handle traffic but do not need much water or sewer capacity. Fish plants may have high water needs but usually dispose of wastewater directly rather than through municipal sewers. Hotels and restaurants need water and good sewer capacity. Welding and fabrication plants require 3-phase electricity but little in the way of municipal infrastructure.
Information and communications technology (ICT) has contributed to a boom in productivity and has become essential for effective participation in today’s economy. Any community without broadband or cell phone connectivity is disadvantaged in attracting and retaining businesses. Broadband helps to level the playing field between large versus small, urban versus rural, and established businesses versus new entrepreneurs.
Successful economies also require social and cultural infrastructure to maintain the quality of life in a community. Roads and bridges are necessary for a community to function effectively, but health services, schools, libraries, recreation programs, and community centres ultimately determine how viable and sustainable the local economy will be. This guide examines how effective planning and management of public infrastructure can encourage economic development.
Regional Economic Development
Until the late 1960’s, economic development had been the exclusive purview of the provincial and federal governments with little local or citizen involvement. The concentration of effort was on major infrastructure projects and large manufacturing enterprises.
In 1968, the rural development association movement began in resistance to the resettlement program and the industrial development policies of government.
In 1992, the province introduced the Strategic Economic Plan: Challenge and Change that called for a new approach to economic development focused on strategic industries, private sector investment and innovation. It also suggested a system of economic zones covering the whole province. In 1995, the Task Force on Community Economic Development released the Community Matters Report which recommended the establishment of 20 regional economic development boards with a mandate to plan and facilitate economic development in the regions. Municipalities are included as core membership in the regional economic development boards.
In 1999 the Municipalities Act was amended to include economic development as a mandate for municipal governments.
The objectives of this guide are: to explore roles and approaches for municipalities in regional economic development; to examine the benefits and challenges of regional cooperation; to discuss potential linkages between municipal roles in service delivery and regional economic development; and, to identify tools for municipalities in regional economic development.
What is a municipal land use plan? A land use plan manages a community’s land and natural resources. It helps a community set goals for how it will grow and develop, and sets out how to achieve those goals while keeping important social, economic, and environmental concerns in mind. A plan should balance the interests of individual landowners with the wider goals of the community as a whole. Good planning leads to orderly growth, efficient provision of infrastructure and services, and compatible economic development. But bad planning can stymie development and result in inefficient use of land and resources. Planning often remains below the radar for most people, that is until it affects them. And it often seems confusing. The purpose of this guide is to explore the relationship between planning and economic development – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
It is often presented as the ultimate in David and Goliath struggles – the small rural community pitted against the powerful and self serving big industry. And there are enough bad examples around to keep feeding this perception. In addition, popular movies and books always champion the small community in the struggle and eventual victory over the evil corporation. It is presented in simple black and white terms. But the movies never get around to telling you what happens after the community has outwitted and defeated the corporation. What’s the price of that victory? What happens then?
It’s much more complicated in the real world where small communities are suffering from economic decline and increased outmigration, especially of the younger population. Difficult choices have to be made. So, in this guide we examine what the community can do to try and create win-win situations when facing the issues of big industry coming to town.
The issue of municipal taxation has always had the ability to raise the ire of both residents and businesses alike in Newfoundland and Labrador. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most misunderstood aspects of municipal government. Too often taxes are seen as some kind of punishment or undue hardship placed on individuals or businesses by a council who is “out of control” or some other such nonsense. It is important to remember that a municipal government is just that, a level of government. And as a level of government it has the ability to levy taxes. The main purpose of municipal taxes is to provide the municipality the needed revenue to continue operations and provide the required services to residents. This guide examines the effective management of municipal taxation to balance municipal operating requirements and encouraging economic development.