Peterborough city council to consider staff proposal for new economic development division

June 17 report to be presented to general committee follows decision not to renew funding agreement with Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development

Peterborough City Hall. (Photo: Bruce Head / kawarthaNOW)

Two weeks after Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development (PKED) announced it would be dissolving at the end of the year after losing its core funding from the city and county of Peterborough, Peterborough city council will consider a staff report for the city to establish its own economic development services division.

City council, meeting as general committee, will discuss the report from city CAO Jasbir Raina on Monday evening (June 17).

The city staff report comes almost two weeks after Peterborough county council approved a transition plan for the county to assume the responsibilities of economic development and tourism in advance of PKED’s dissolution — the result of both the city and county deciding not to renew a multi-year tri-party agreement to provide funding to PKED that expires on December 31.

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The county’s transition plan proposed the county hire a new general manager of economic development who would report to the existing director of planning, with the division renamed as planning and economic development. The plan also proposed the county’s communications division be renamed communications and tourism, with that division’s manager title renamed as general manager of communications and tourism, and that a new communications coordinator be hired for the renamed division.

The city staff report proposes that a new economic development division be established within the city’s infrastructure, planning and growth management department. The new division would include a director and three full-time staff, with an additional two staff to work on tourism and destination marketing within the city’s strategic communications and Service Peterborough division.

“However, staffing needs will be fully determined following the hiring” of the new director, the report states.

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The report also proposes the creation of “Experience Peterborough” branding for tourism promotion and marketing, with three city divisions — arts and culture, recreation and park services, and strategic communications and Service Peterborough — “supporting tourism functions to attract events and market the city as a destination.”

“While the staffing resources would be within the three divisions, the public facing identity for Peterborough tourism would be a single branding, Experience Peterborough, with staff contacts grouped together as a single public-facing team and staff working in collaboration on tourism-related activities,” the report states.

In addition to the six staff outlined above, there would be two additional positions similar to PKED’s “experience and tourism advisors” who would promote and support events and activities within the city, as well as half of a full-time equivalent position called “Coordinator of Cultural Programs” that would support cultural events such as Peterborough Musicfest, the Peterborough Folk Festival, Pride events, and community parades.

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A media release from the City of Peterborough issued Thursday (June 13) states that there would be a total of 10.5 staff positions to support economic development and tourism within the City of Peterborough under the proposed plan. Peterborough County’s transition plan would require two positions. It is not yet known how many staff positions would be required once the city and county have fully established their new responsibilities for economic development and tourism.

PKED currently has 12 full-time staff positions, with students hired during the summer, to support economic development and tourism in both the city and county of Peterborough.

The budget for the proposed changes for the city would be $341,000 for the remainder of 2024. While the report provides no budget for 2025, it recommends redirecting $1,015,112 — the city’s share of core funding for PKED in 2024 — to fund the new economic development division in 2025. The report also proposes that the portion of the municipal accommodation tax for tourism activities that it transferred to PKED — estimated at $425,000 in 2024 — be assumed by the city by designating the city as an “eligible tourism entity” under the Municipal Act.

The staff report sheds some light on when and how the city made the decision to not renew its tri-party agreement with PKED and the County of Peterborough. According to the report, a closed session of city council was held on June 26, 2023 where council “provided a series of directions relating to alternatives for the delivery of economic development services.” However, the report provides no detail on the “series of directions” as information from closed council sessions is not a matter of public record. Council voted 11-0 to endorse the closed session report.

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In Thursday’s media release from the city, Peterborough mayor Jeff Leal makes three statements about the city’s decision not to renew its funding agreement with PKED and the proposal for the city to assume responsibility for economic development and tourism.

“Peterborough was recently shown to be ranked last in gross domestic product growth among the Census Metropolitan Areas in Ontario — behind areas such as Belleville, Brantford, and Thunder Bay. Our business property tax base is not where we need it, leaving residential property taxpayers to shoulder a greater burden. We need a different approach to attract investment. The status quo isn’t working.”

“Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development has served our region with professionalism and dedication for 25 years. The individuals in that organization are outstanding individuals. As we move forward, we need to build on the successes of that organization but also bridge the gaps that have emerged over the last 25 years.”

“Regional collaboration, partnerships and communication will remain essential as both the City and Peterborough County transition in how they provide economic development and tourism activities. Peterborough Region is well positioned to attract growth and investment. The City and the County are taking action to move our communities forward.”