Partnership with Edmonton convention and tourism properties closer, but not there yet

The communities surrounding Northlands, Feb. 18, 2016. Global News

A deal to combine the convention centre capabilities of Northlands with the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and the Shaw Conference Centre is getting closer to coming to fruition, but there is still work to be done.

Edmonton city council spent several hours behind closed doors Tuesday afternoon with representatives from the three groups. The plan is to have the three merge to help cover off the $47-million mortgage payment the city is likely to inherit from the Edmonton Expo Centre.

“To actually get to the final terms may take one more round of discussions, but I’m optimistic we’ll be able to resolve this no later than August,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

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What exactly was discussed during these meetings has not been made public. Iveson said that’s because of existing contracts with organizations that have already booked events at Northlands, and because of the uncertainty about the potential impact to staff.

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“We don’t want to interrupt the business or interrupt jobs needlessly,” Iveson said. “When the time comes, once everything’s tidied up, I think it’s for Northlands to announce what their strategy is because they’re an arms-length organization.”

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The city is looking at creating an agriculture hub at Northlands that would allow for world-class research to be conducted. For Coun. Michael Walters, that would lead to a better understanding how food gets from farmers to the table. He said there’s a regional economic development organization called Quebec International that has had success with something similar.

“They basically went from zero to somewhere around $3 billion a year in food and ag-related economic development, and I think we have to think big like that,” Walters said. “The hub model is a good model because it does bring together all the component parts of the food system from the demand side and the supply side.”