by Peter Conradi/Bullet News
After six months of talking, debating, listening, fighting, bickering, negotiating, arguing and sometimes smiling, it remained clear Thursday night that there are still divisions and mistrust among Regional councillors about who should run economic development in Niagara.
Yet politicians managed to endorse a staff report 19-9 that will allow staff to hire a transition manager for four months to determine what the successor to the Niagara Economic Development Corp. will look like. Of the 19 who supported the motion, Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey was the lone representative of a community that currently has its own economic development officer.
Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan and Welland Mayor Barry Sharpe, representing the other four Niagara municipalities with economic development offices, all voted no. All four have all along been critics of what they see as attempts by the Region to take control of economic development, an area they feel is performed very well within their own city and town halls.
The transition plan calls for the elimination of the beleaguered NEDC in favour of a field agent system centralized at the Region. The head of the new department would report to council and be subject to some kind of performance standards. The new department would be aided by an advisory committee of industry leaders, and have satellite field officers who would concentrate on business development by sector rather than municipal geography.