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New Saint John regional economic development agency closer to reality

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WATCH: The City of Saint John and the surrounding communities are close to adopting a regional economic development model. Tim Roszell has more. – Jul 19, 2020

The City of Saint John and the communities surrounding it are close to adopting a new regional economic development model.

The Town of Grand Bay-Westfield became the latest community to approve the plan with a unanimous vote at a special meeting of town council Thursday.

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Mayor Grace Losier said the plan is an extension of a pre-existing relationship between the communities.

“For our town and our team, we’ve certainly seen that as an investment,” Losier said.

“It’s a cost, certainly. But it’s an investment. It’s an investment in our future. We need to grow our population and we need to grow those economic opportunities here in Grand Bay-Westfield.”

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Under the new model, initiatives involving economic development, economic infrastructure, tourism and population growth would be funnelled through a single agency.

Currently, the communities of Saint John, Rothesay, Quispamsis, Grand Bay-Westfield, Hampton and St. Martins would have the initiatives handled by a number of different agencies, such as Discover Saint John or Develop Saint.

The new model will see each community contribute financially to help fund the operations of the new organization.

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Paulette Hicks, the chairperson of the advisory council in charge of creating the new model, said the council studied other single-agency jurisdictions across Canada and found more and more communities collaborating in this way.

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“In order to compete in this world, we do need to work together,” Hicks said.

“We’re not selling and competing against one another. We’re selling and competing against the world. This is a global market and we can only be stronger together if we sell together.”

Hampton, Rothesay and Quispamsis approved the plan this week.

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Quispamsis Mayor Gary Clark said he’s pleased there will be no elected officials in the new agency.

“I think it’s very important that we keep the politics out and make sure that we do this very fair and equitably,” Clark said.

Saint John Deputy Mayor Shirley McAlary said the city will be the second in Atlantic Canada to adopt this kind of regional economic development agency, behind only Halifax.

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Saint John Common Council is expected to have the final say on the plan at a meeting on July 20.