The Town of Bashaw will seek to support local business by applying for major grants. The decision was made at the Nov. 15 regular meeting of council.

Councillors read a report from Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller which noted councillors, in response to a request from the Bashaw and District Chamber of Commerce, wished to discuss options for providing support to the local business community. Representatives of the chamber recently appeared at council and suggested the Town of Bashaw do more to support the local business community, specifically through a non-residential multi-year tax incentive bylaw.

At a previous meeting councillors wondered what options were available for more wide-ranging support. The CAO stated she had looked into certain grant programs available from other levels of government, and because of grant deadlines, including Dec. 20 for one program, she decided to present to councillors as soon as possible.

Fuller’s report listed a number of areas that grants could address, including Main Street or vacant business infill, Main Street beautification, business training or learning, hiring of an economic development coordinator and drafting a tax incentive bylaw.

Fuller further suggested that as far as vacant business space the town could consider inviting those property owners to a meeting and gather input on how the town could help them fill those spaces. “We have several aging business sites that are not functioning,” said Fuller.

Coun. Jackie Northey, who at a previous meeting stated she favoured a more wide-ranging approach to helping local business than a tax incentive bylaw, repeated those comments. She conceded that a tax incentive bylaw have some impact on local business such as attracting a new one, but she still preferred programs that had broad appeal and effect.

Included in the agenda package was an email from a local community member, Cindy Burgess, who had concerns with a tax incentive bylaw. “As a resident of Bashaw I am adamantly against such a bylaw,” stated Burgess’ email dated Oct. 30. “I further encourage the chamber’s members to look to existing federal programs for tax relief.

“If council allowed a non-residential tax incentive how would those tax dollars be recovered? Would council push an even greater tax burden directly onto residents?

“I strongly urge council to turn down this proposal. They have a challenging task ahead: keeping our 2024 tax rate as low as possible while maintaining the high level of service Bashaw provides. Adding an unnecessary expense line to the budget is unacceptable,” added Burgess.

Councillors discussed the grant programs the CAO presented to them: Alberta Northern and Regional Economic Development Program (NRED) and the recently-announced Small Community Opportunity (SCO) program.

The report stated NRED accepts applications that either immediately promote regional economic prosperity or those that lay the foundation for continued economic prosperity into the future in areas such as business supports and economic development capacity building.

The recently announced SCO program accepts applications that align with the Economic Development in Rural Alberta plan and build capacity within the local community in entrepreneurship and mentorship, skills development, small business supports and/or partnerships, interconnectivity and collaboration.

During discussion councillors suggested gathering community input on these grants with the CAO stating if councillors want applications made she will contact the chamber for their support.

Coun. Kyle McIntosh was cautious about applying for any of these grants, adding he wondered if the town should consult with the community first.

Councillors approved by a 3 to 1 vote the Town of Bashaw applying for these grants with McIntosh the lone dissenter.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 24, 2023 at 09:03

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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