It was the Sean Connery character, Jimmy Malone, in “The Untouchables” (1987) who made popular the expression…”Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight”. And that is exactly what London would be doing if doesn’t secure the necessary industrial lands to compete in the “fight” for industrial development and the attraction of foreign direct investment.
To be sure, every community from Windsor to Cornwall and from Ft. Frances to North Bay are all in the same fight – the quest for new development and with it, much needed new jobs.
To its credit, the City’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee this week unanimously approved a plan that will add a minimum of 200 hectares of industrial land to our vastly depleted and “critically low” inventory and even though the cost to acquire the land will cost tens of millions of dollars, and probably more than a decade to achieve, it’s an investment we can ill afford to turn down.
John Fleming, managing director of planning, has said, “If we don’t take on this role, we believe we will miss opportunities.” He couldn’t be more right. Communities all along the 400 series of highways are moving very aggressively to assemble as much industrial land as they can and as fast as they can because they recognize how critically important it is in the “fight” to win new business.
London’s Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) has done a great job in bringing new industries here (Dr. Oetker, The Cakery, Hanwha etc.) but if they don’t have a place where new companies can land, all of their best efforts will go for not and other communities will win the battle for new investment and jobs.
The idea that the city would create an Industrial Land Development Team that would work closely with London Economic Development Corporation to identify and acquire the necessary land is a good one and frankly long overdue. It simple makes good sense to give the LEDC the added leverage it needs to close the deal when they have a client that is keen to make a move here.
Fleming has again quite rightly pointed out that apart from land acquisition, new industries also need to know that we have the right skilled labour force available to ensure future success. Personally, I am very confident that we do, and where we may find ourselves wanting in some sectors, we have Fanshawe College and others more than willing to customize training to be sure we can fill that labour demand.
For its part, the London Chamber of Commerce has been concerned for a number of years that the lack of available industrial lands could set us back economically and put us behind the competitive eight ball if not rectified.
The report that was presented to the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee was an excellent start and whether the final report comes to Council this December or later in March 2014, the message is clear. We cannot afford to let any opportunities pass us by because we did not have the foresight to secure and prepare the necessary lands that we need to attract new industry and create the jobs that we need to regain our strong economic position that we enjoyed before the downturn of 2008.
The $120 million is a lot of money to be sure, but one can only imagine the hundreds of millions that we will give up if we don’t invest it.