Over the last number of months there has been a lot of interest expressed across the community about how best we can manage our community’s economic development effort. Some of it focuses on mechanisms like KEDCO, or on infrastructure and other ways the city can support economic development. It is clearly a top priority among Kingston residents — a priority shared both by myself and by the rest of city council, as demonstrated by our strategic priority to build a smart economy.
A proposal for a full review process for KEDCO will come before City Council at our next meeting on October 6. The review as proposed would be led by a committee of 10 people: 2 city councillors, the city’s CAO, 2 KEDCO board members and its interim CEO, and 4 members of the public.
City Council will be in charge of this review process – not KEDCO, who will have only 3 representatives on the panel. The 4 members of the public will be chosen directly by City Council’s nominations committee, and a call for applications will be issued by the city clerk’s office in early October, with selection of the public members confirmed by City Council and the review committee as a whole set in place by mid-November. The committee will need some time to do a thorough review, and will be asked to report back to City Council with its findings and recommendations no later than June of next year.
The review committee will be charged with making recommendations directly to City Council on changes both to KEDCO’s operations and its structure. There will be extensive public consultation and opportunity for residents from across the community to provide their input, ideas and suggestions for how to strengthen KEDCO and related economic development activities.
For example, the committee will be able to explore whether Tourism Kingston should be separated from economic development, whether salaries of senior KEDCO employees should be publicly disclosed, what the board structure and annual budget should be, what measures and targets should guide KEDCO and what methods KEDCO should use to more effectively report its results to City Council and to the community.
In my view the proposed review will provide an effective and open forum to address almost all of the issues, questions and concerns raised to date in the community. With respect to concerns about the financial integrity of KEDCO, it is important to note that KEDCO’s books are audited every year by a reputable CA firm here in Kingston, and that there is a finance and audit committee with council representation that meets every month to review every cheque that is sent out from KEDCO.
I believe that to realize our vision to establish Kingston as a smart and livable city, we must have a strong economic development agency that has the full confidence of City Council and the support of the community as a whole. I believe that the proposed review process is a fair and transparent way to identify not just the problems with KEDCO, but more importantly to identify solutions and to establish constructive methods to advance our economic health.
That is why I will be asking all of council to endorse the proposed KEDCO review process at our next council meeting on October 6.
Mayor Bryan Paterson