Canadian Design and Construction Report special feature
Located in the center of Niagara in southern Ontario, Welland has traditionally been known as the “place where rails and water meet,” referring to railways to the U.S. and other parts of Ontario and to the Welland Canal and River.
Mayor Frank Campion says the city has begun a dynamic renaissance which is seeing renewed interest and growth in both the residential and employment sectors.
“Our city’s competitive advantages are numerous and financially advantageous to those looking to invest and/or reside,” he says. “We are proud of our many physical, cultural, educational, historical and human assets. Our balanced approach to responsible growth and maintenance of pleasurable lifestyle make Welland the place to be in 2016 and beyond.”
Campion says GE (General Electric) Canada’s recent announcement that it is constructing a new 450,000 sq. ft. plant in Welland, creating 150 jobs, has put the city on the global investment map.
He says the city will take advantage of this growth and the availability of serviced industrial lands, combined with its Economic Gateway Zone incentive, to attract GE supply chain companies, as well as to provide partnership and expansion opportunities for local companies.
“This benefits our local economy, provides job opportunities and assists in partnerships with Niagara College for training and product development with the private sector. Spin-off opportunities from this will substantially boost our local economy.”
The city has an aggressive economic development team with cross-platform personnel, ensuring rapid and accurate information dissemination, including planning and zoning, infrastructure and engineering information, from a single contact point.
Campion says the city’s proactive building department also works with industry and developers to ensure fast turnaround on permits. “Welland has ample affordable, serviced, shovel ready industrial and residential properties available and we are leading the way in providing a pleasurable, dynamic lifestyle while successfully improving our local economy and employment.”
The city also offers the Niagara Gateway Economic Zone Incentive Program – a financial incentive based on the size of an industrial development/increase in assessed value of the property, number of employees and green initiative components. The program provides waiving of fees/development charges and an incremental tax break of up to 100 per cent on the increase in assessed value. The actual amounts are based on a scoring matrix.
He says implementation of Welland’s CIP (community improvement plans and financial incentives) programs have generated $1,152,188 in private sector investment downtown, which has successfully improved the area, providing more business opportunity and an improved community centre. “Our successful Gateway Incentives resulted in increased employment opportunities.”
Welland is also within the newly federally designated Foreign Free Trade Zone. This incentive program provides trade incentives to businesses involved in international trade.
Other local projects include new Provincial Offences Act Courts and the Royal Rose Place Long Term Care Facility which is nearing completion. The city’s Waterfront Development Project and the Niagara St. reconstruction/infrastructure projects are also in the works. Campion says these projects and Welland’s ongoing growth have made the city a significant regional centre. “Part of our strategic plan focus is development of the recreational canal waterfront currently still in planning,” he said. “It is expected that the plan will result in a waterfront component to the downtown core among other things. The first phase of waterfront improvement was the decorative lighting of the East Main Street Bridge.”
Other strategic plan components focus on sewer separation and improved hard services infrastructure. Campion says there will be less sewer infiltration, thereby reducing ratepayer costs.
Welland is also revamping its communications and public engagement processes through a new, interactive website expected to launch in the fall. “Corporate communications has been improved and a 21 X 11 ft. LED screen is being installed in our downtown civic square… creating a miniature version of Yonge/Dundas Square.”
In other areas, he says the city’s building division issued 27.7 per cent more new housing permits last year over the previous five-year average, in part because of four new subdivisions that either have or will be starting construction in 2016.
Also within the city is Niagara College, a premier postsecondary educational facility, which draws residents, students, as well as business. “The college’s ability to design programs around business needs, their Innovation Centres and the recent addition of the Advanced Manufacturing Program are very attractive to business.”
Campion says residents also enjoy vibrant recreational and leisure opportunities. “Welland’s 7 km recreational waterway, which dissects the city, provides a venue for international flatwater events such as the Pan Am Games, and also enables residents to use the waterway for kayak, canoe and other water related activities. This is enhanced by our Merritt Island which provides a natural area for walking, hiking, biking, picnicking and so on.”
Sports facilities include a baseball stadium and the 2,250-seat Welland Arena. The Welland Community Wellness Complex (WCWC) is a central facility providing a variety of programs for all ages, including a therapeutic pool.
Welland is also part of the Greater Niagara Circle Route, which enables visitors with cars and bicycles to experience the Welland Canal from one end of the peninsula to the other. “Our central location in the region makes travel throughout the area simple and quick so those living and working in the region can enjoy convenient access. Our proximity to international border crossings is good for travellers and businesses involved in import/export.”
Campion says Welland has a variety of interesting neighbourhoods. “Diverse neighbourhoods enhanced by beautiful and functional parkland with 7 km of waterfront running though the centre of the city make Welland a unique combination of eclectic urban life.” For more information, visit http://welland.ca.