Norfolk Mayor Travale strongly at the helm- read full State of County address

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Dennis Travale – 2014 Conference keynote speaker at Alberta's Canada Badlands.

Dennis Travale – 2014 Conference keynote speaker at Alberta’s Canada Badlands.

From Greens at Renton, Mayor’s Annual “State of the County” breakfast. April 2nd.  Good morning Madam President, Executive, members of the Simcoe & District Chamber of Commerce, guests, and friends. I extend greetings to all of you from Norfolk County Council and thank you for the invitation to address you on the State of Norfolk County. When I spoke to you last year at this time I raised a number of issues. The most important of those were the many challenges we face for Economic growth and the wellbeing of Norfolk citizens.

I have just returned from the Canadian Badlands in Alberta where,  at their invitation (and expense),  I was asked to explain how Norfolk transitioned from a one factory town (tobacco) to the most highly diverse agricultural area in Canada  and what we were doing to increase the tourism sector of our economy.

When people from afar are asking about your success,    we should recognize it locally  – too.

2013 was the best year ever for development  – in the history of Norfolk –  with the highest number of building permits  –  totaling almost $100 million.

In 2013 we had the lowest ever tax increase – 0.8%  and followed that with 1.4% for 2014 (of which more than half was because of the OPP salary increase) – so for those things we control the tax increase was 0.7%.

Let us clearly recognize that Norfolk has a rural and small town economy,  based fundamentally on Agriculture, small manufacturing (yes that’s right) and Tourism – in that order. We must recognize   who we are  and  the state of our economy, and  build on our strengths.

We need to work with and assist:

  • Our Agriculture sector to expand, diversify and develop more markets;
  • The Manufacturing sector by providing reliable infrastructure and a Bylaw and Policy regulatory system that promotes and supports growth;
  • Our Tourism and Commercial entrepreneurs by providing services, information, and public amenities (such as parking, public washrooms and garbage/recycling); and
  • Our Cultural and Recreational groups,   to stimulate our minds and our bodies;

We must be enablers to all sectors of our economy, embrace change and be bold in our actions; and we must continue to invest in our infrastructure.

In the last 7+ years that I have been Mayor there have been numerous issues and challenges; however, with persistence, perseverance,  strong leadership and a clear focus of what can be. Norfolk is in the best financial shape ever!

We must continue to build on our success – and   with continued strong leadership  and  a supportive and engaged  Council,  we will continue to expand and diversify our economy.

Since the recession in 2008, with a great deal of  direct, personal contact  with provincial and federal politicians, and personal support from and by me for many projects,  we have attracted  and invested more than  $70 million EXTRA dollars for our infrastructure challenges – (roads, water and sewer, and internet).

These investments allow businesses to  continue to exist and expand,  and  bring new development.

Our partnership with and my leadership in SCOR brought another $15 million to the economy of the Sand Plain, and Norfolk businesses and community groups received over $3 million through grants and  “patient pay-back” loans which  are coming back through our business development corporation to be reinvested many times over.

We sustained through the recession  we invested  and today, we are growing.

As you know Council unanimously approved the sale of Norfolk Power to Hydro One. When that decision was taken we had some very important aspects for consideration, and more than all were achieved. The sale gained the following:

  • Retention of all the jobs;
  • A continued investment in the community and support for community events;
  • A continued presence in the community;
  • Additional jobs moving to Norfolk; and
  • A premium price.

A major challenge is the change in our demographic – we are older and the baby boom is retiring in large numbers to  idyllic,  rural  and small town Ontario.

There more people 55 to 64 years of age than those under 24 years of age.  Something no one has ever witnessed before.  This brings new opportunities and challenges.

Opportunities –  for younger workers to establish businesses or join businesses that cater to the needs and wants of these older folks.   It is important to also note that this “older” generation is retiring with more wealth (inherited and made) than any generation before them.

Challenges –  because we,  the community,  must expand all of our services – water, waste water, internet, roads, police, fire, medical, recreation, and more.

Collectively – Me, the Council, the Chambers of Commerce and the Board of Trade, our BIAs, every developer, every organization and service club, and   every citizen   must continue to focus on growing Norfolk. And I am very pleased that the Chambers of Commerce and the PD Board of Trade have come together to form the South Coast Business Coalition  to address the issues in Norfolk at the strategic level and provide advice to me and Council.

Whether you recognize it or not you are Norfolk’s Economic Development organization. Our economic pressures continue and many of them are out of our control, such as:

  • The final closure of the Nanticoke Power Generating station at the end of last year, and the loss of hundreds of good paying jobs;
  • The dramatic and unsustainable costs for policing  with a 8.55% salary increase in 2014, dictated to us by a provincial government that preaches restraint (and sadly there is no overt Opposition support for our plight);
  • A severe reduction in 2014 of almost $1 million in transfer funds from the province and further reductions coming in each of the next 3 years;
  • Greater costs for materials (electricity, gasoline, oil, sand, salt, asphalt, etc);
  • The challenges of bringing industry to rural and small town Ontario; and
  • Demands for more spending on roads and other infrastructure from members of the public or demands NOT to change things.

I am well aware of the pressures  and  with determined and focused leadership   and a progressive and engaged Council  we can change  what is  and  what will be.

Only a progressive leader with experience and expertise in dealing with major political and economic issues can boost our local economy. This happens through collective efforts  –  locally as well as with  friendly and ongoing contact with senior levels of government as well as with our neighbours on a regional scale.

We must maintain and refine the services and amenities at our public tourist destinations such as Turkey Point, Long Point, and Port Dover and we must assist our tourism partners however and where we can.

As Mayor I provide vision and leadership  BUT I am only one vote at the Council table.

If there is to be change and progress, you need a majority of Council on side, a minimum of 5 votes. I believe that we have a majority on Council that truly and forcibly supports the idea that we are  “OPEN FOR BUSINESS”.

However, it is up to you to continue to reinforce the approach that we are  “OPEN FOR BUSINESS”.

With support from a majority of  Council we are moving toward a more Efficient, Economical, Effective  and  streamlined government. I introduced the Program and Service Review – a process whereby everything we do is under the microscope. This activity is bringing efficiencies and economies, and an upcoming Report by the County Manager will list them; however, some highlights of which I am aware:

  • OPP force reduced by 3 officers, with no loss in service, for a constant saving of $360,000;
  • Reorganization in two departments, with no loss in service, has produced an annual saving – of both staff and dollars (more than $100,000);
  • The 2014 net levy requirement for Social Services dropped $231,500 (9.9%);
  • The 2014 net levy requirement for Social Housing dropped $48,600 (2.2%);
  • Woodhouse PW Yard was decommissioned and sold, with no loss in service, and we no longer have costs related to its ongoing operations, maintenance and renovations = $300,000;
  • We are launched on a program of identifying and selling surplus properties;
  • Millions are targeted and being collected through an active and vigilant focus on tax arrears – and for the first time in a very long time properties are being sold for tax default . My insistence for this program has seen the arrears of $13 million (when I took office) reduced to $5.5 million;
  • A review of our insurance policy brought $212,000 savings in premiums;
  • Through good management we received approx. $141,000 more in provincial funding for Norview Lodge; and
  • I am committed to stop burying our garbage (hiding it under some dirt) and use the Waste as a Fuel to generate electricity. This has the potential to bring cost savings and be extremely beneficial to the environment.

Ladies & Gentlemen – that’s $8,681,100  at minimum. And through an initiative of mine, 2014 saw the lowest ever increase in water & waste water rates ….less than 1%

Through continuation of this program and service review I predict additional dollar and staff savings – to invest in roads and other infrastructure as well as needed services; New growth has happened and will continue. To name a few:

  • Toyotetsu’s third expansion added many new jobs  and  is approaching the 500 employee mark;
  • Vandenbusshe Irrigation in Delhi expanded;
  • A derelict building on Boswell St was sold for tax arrears and will house a new coconut processing facility bringing 27 new jobs;
  • A directed program of tax arrears sales has seen many buildings and properties back on the tax role, renovated and productive;
  • Two new craft breweries and a third coming soon;
  • More wineries opening each year (there are now 11 wineries) and those that are here are award winning;
  • New restaurants opening across Norfolk;
  • Major food processing facilities have been established on local farms;
  • New commercial development continues;
  • Titan Trailers in Courtland has expanded;
  • More housing developments across Norfolk.

I will also mention 8 more projects that would  NOT  have happened if I had not personally intervened – yes I will take the glory as well as the blame.

  • A $19 million dollar – phase 1 investment on the old American Can site, with a multi-million dollar phase 2 to come;
  • A newly completed and enlarged Canadian Tire and an improved Simcoe Mall with SportChek and Winners;
  • A new Bulk Barn and more development pending at  3 & 24;
  • A new brewery and a kettle potato chip facility north of Delhi;
  • A thriving micro-brewery in the Blue Elephant;
  • New law offices on the Queensway;
  • A new library in Port Dover shared with the school; and
  • Planning is well underway for a new medical center in Port Dover.

And – more will be coming to Council in the very near future.

I can announce that we now have in our possession the draft title transfer of the historic lighthouse on the pier in Port Dover, Again  –   all personal achievements. The Mayor must keep an eye on what is happening and what is possible, and personally intervene where as needed to make things happen. The job of Mayor is constant, full-time  and hands on.   It is a challenge every day,  7 days a week.

Your Mayor:

  • Is a proven strategic thinker and, has a vision and a plan for Norfolk;
  • Has built a close working relationship with both the provincial and federal governments;
  • Is working closely and collaboratively with leaders in other Southern Ontario municipalities;
  • Is the  CEO  and  Chairman of the Board of a corporation of over 730 employees, budgets totaling over $220 million,   assets of almost $1 Billion  and  64,000 shareholders.

Now if any of this sounded like a campaign speech …  I remind you that I am not a candidate in the upcoming municipal election … YET!!    But I will be I promise you, it’s just that there is so much more “Mayor” work to be done in helping you and others succeed.

The things I have mentioned today are things that a   progressive and business savvy Mayor does  and every member of Council  should do  every day NOT just during an election year.

Folks, we have been and will continue to move in the RIGHT DIRECTION. We must continue to work together – for Norfolk. We can never take our success for granted. Speak up and speak out  positively about and for Norfolk. When you travel – if you speak positively about Norfolk – the Best place to Invest in Ontario, Ontario’s Garden, and  Ontario’s South Coast – people will pay attention. Businesses will take a look to see what we have to offer – and they will come! Tell them that we are  OPEN FOR BUSINESS!!

 

 

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