SACKVILLE, N.B. – Sackville town council has given the green light to hire outside consultants to draft a business development strategy for the town.
Coming with a $15,000 price tag, council approved the submission from Lions Gate Consulting of Vancouver, who will be partnering with 4L Strategies Consulting of Milford, N.S. on the project, in a 6-2 vote earlier this month.
Jamie Burke, senior manager of corporate projects, explained the strategy will look at Sackville’s current economic and business development approach and determine if it’s “appropriate for a community our size.”
Burke said the consultants will also bring back recommendations based on public consultations as well as a review of best practices across the country for similar-sized municipalities, setting measurable targets the town can deliver on “given the resources and expertise we have here in Sackville.”
Coun.Andrew Black, who voted in favour of the motion, said he’s excited to see what the consultants will bring to the table.
“I think it’s important to see, when it comes to economic development in Sackville, what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong,” he said.
“So I’m really interested to see what this report is going to bring back as to what Sackville is maybe not looking at properly and thereby changing what we do and how we do it.”
Black stressed the need for community input, however, and is hopeful “there’s some sort of big resident component to this.”
Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken and Coun. Bruce Phinney weren’t as excited about the project, however, and voted against the proposal to hire consultants. Both said the town has already commissioned enough economic and business development reports and studies over the past 20 years to be able to gauge what Sackville needs.
“They all make the same three points,” Aiken said. “We should encourage small versus large business, that we offer a quality of life and that we have a great location near the TransCanada. This is what every one of them says.”
Aiken said council is limited in what it can do to promote economic development but has still shown success despite those limitations. He is confident Sackville is performing well compared to other small New Brunswick towns, pointing to the town’s support towards initiatives such as Bagtown Brewery, Terra Beata cranberry storage facility and the re-opening of the former Moloney Electric plant.
“Whatever we are doing seems to be working,” he said.
Aiken also noted the town has enough expertise within the community to develop a strategy internally, rather than farm the work out to consultants.
Phinney agreed, saying he’s not convinced an outside marketing firm will be able to help determine how Sackville should approach business development.
Burke pointed out that a business development strategy was a priority recommended in the town’s strategic plan, which council adopted last year.
He explained the project is being outsourced instead of done internally because town staff are simply too busy on a day-to-day basis to take on the task.
“We just don’t have the time to invest into getting it done,” he said.
He said town managers will help oversee the project and help consultants throughout the process.
Mayor John Higham said drafting a business development strategy is an important step in determining what is next for Sackville, following a number of important initiatives within the past year or two, including the reopening of the former Moloney plant, the soon-to-be opening of Terra Beata, and the opening of Community Machinery.
“At some point we have to figure out what’s next. And what’s next may not be another industrial park or it might be,” he said.
Higham said a strategy will help the town come up with a direction and an approach to take.
“There’s a lot of pretty big questions that we need to get some handle on in order to figure out what’s best for the community.”