Pitt Meadows council takes over economic development

Replaces volunteer board members with councillors.

Pitt Meadows council has replaced the volunteers who sit on the board of the Pitt Meadows Economic Development Corporation with the members of council themselves.

Mayor John Becker said the change is a return to the arrangement when the board first was founded. Becker said council has “lost strategic control of the corporation” and needs to get it back.

He also said it didn’t make sense for economic development to sponsor Christmas in the City, or a Christmas tree decorating contest.

“We need to re-focus energies on the strategic work that was originally intended,” he added.

Coun. Janis Elkerton supported the move.

“I’ve always questioned what economic development does, compared with what the chamber [of commerce] does,” she said, adding that there appears to be too much duplication of service.

Elkerton noted that the corporation supported the North Lougheed Corridor project, without yet knowing the full costs to the city.

She said councillors have the advantage of more information, in a more timely manner, in making such decisions.

Coun. Bill Dingwall said the decision came from a process in which council reviewed the business plans of all departments, and some councillors wanting to see a change in economic development.

He would have preferred to see more information, rather than having a council that was sworn in only a week earlier disbanding the volunteer board.

The motion caught him off guard.

“I support the concept of revalidating the terms of reference and mandate of economic development,” said Dingwall, “but I didn’t feel like I had enough information. I wanted a more fulsome discussion.”

He and Coun. Tracy Miyashita both voted against the motion.

Kate Zanon, the CEO of the economic development corporation, and the rest of the staff are still in place, so there will not be any significant financial savings with the change.

Dan Kosicki said he and the other business people on the board were disappointed, and questioned the manner in which their group was hastily dissolved.

“They [councillors] are totally within their rights,” he said. “But what’s the sense of urgency to disband a group of unpaid directors?”

He said anyone pursuing economic development in Pitt Meadows will face the same challenge – there’s little land available.

There is some opportunity for aviation-related development at the airport, and the North Lougheed Connected represents “huge potential.”

Kosicki said he would be happy to continue working to build Pitt’s economy.

“You don’t have to be elected, necessarily – some of the most valuable contributions come from citizens,” he said.