Cranbrook 2018: Future focus
Lee Pratt looks back over his first term in office and ahead at Cranbrook’s future
Since November 2014, a change in the mindset at Cranbrook city hall has created noticeable, valuable changes for the local business community.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the process and lose sight of the goal—and when that’s the case, progress is impossible,” said Lee Pratt, mayor of Cranbrook. “Right out of the chute in 2014 we decided that we would deliver on fiscal responsibility, roads and infrastructure, and economic development. Council members were all on side with it, and it took a team effort with myself, the council and David Kim, our CAO.”
City hall has simplified the development approval process and cut back on the length of time it takes to issue approvals. Because department heads are now empowered to make decisions as they were hired to do, the process can move forward quickly.
“The people who have bought into the changes here feel good about being part of a solution and of accomplishing progress,” said Pratt. “It’s a lot nicer than just saying ‘no.’ It took some time, but the public is noticing it and appreciating the staff for how helpful they are.”
A big wait-and-see
Recreational use of cannabis is now legal in Canada, but municipalities retain a certain level of control over how that use will manifest locally.
“We waited a long time to develop our foundation,” Pratt said. “We could have spent a lot of time and money working on this, and then had to do it all over again as new requirements came down.
“It’s uncharted territory, and the big thing that concerns all of the municipalities is the enforcement. It will add horrendous costs, and we’ve all been writing letters to the Province to say that we need some of the tax revenue to flow back to us to pay for the policing and extra enforcement costs.”
There have been plenty of inquiries about potential retail outlets, but the non-refundable deposit of $10,500 per outlet application is a strong deterrent to the frivolous. As of November 10, the City of Cranbrook has received just two official retail outlet applications.
Investment payoff in perpetuity
The recently announced agreement between the City of Cranbrook and C&C Resources Inc. is the result of several years of negotiations and conversations instigated by Pratt. Back in early 2016, in a bid to bring renewed industry to 40 hectares (100 acres) of Tembec-owned land along Theatre Road, Pratt engaged in conversations with MGX Minerals.
In the course of his conversations, the realization came to Pratt that the City of Cranbrook could benefit greatly by purchasing the property and developing it as a profitable, City-controlled asset. He contacted the powers-that-be at Tembec.
“We arrived at an agreement with Tembec, and we got a screamin’ deal on the land—we paid $3 million for it, and the finger-joint plant must be worth more than $1 million by itself. After more meetings and negotiations and time, we arrived at a lease agreement with C&C Resources.”
C&C Resources will occupy the former finger-jointing plant, employing 17 to 20 people per shift to manufacture exterior wood trim and siding. Actual operations will begin in the first half of 2019.
A number of other industrial companies have expressed interest in leasing parcels of the property. Along with the City’s own plans for development, these are good indicators that the City’s $3-million investment will be an ongoing source of stable revenue and employment for Cranbrook.
Pratt said that while the property needs some infrastructure to be installed, the cost of that will be reflected in the lease payments back to the City. This will be a significant income stream for the City in perpetuity, and the businesses that lease properties will provide jobs for people—possibly new Cranbrook residents—who will spend their money in the city and the surrounding area.
It’s a huge win for Cranbrook.