Corp Comm Connects

Aurora mayor talks new business, downtown, taxes during annual luncheon
Feb. 17, 2016
By Chris Simon

When Aurora's mayor speaks about business, the town's private sector is happy to dine and listen.

Mayor Geoff Dawe touched on a variety of subjects - from downtown revitalization and plans for the opening of new businesses, to development charges and tax increases - during the annual Aurora Chamber of Commerce's Mayor's Luncheon, which was held at Oakview Terrace Reception Centre, located along a rural stretch of Leslie Street in Richmond Hill, Wednesday afternoon.

On the issue of attracting new business, Dawe mentioned the town has reached out to several hotel companies regarding a site at the Don Hillock Drive and Leslie Street intersection, but significant development charge rates consistently hamper those negotiations.

"A substantial barrier is the high DCs," he said. "They've increased dramatically over the past few years. Since these DCs have been in place, there have been no hotels built in York Region. We're working with regional council to see how we can address that. The DCs on that level of hotel are just prohibitive."

On a 90-suite hotel, a company would pay $2.8 million in DCs in Aurora, compared to $1.2 million in Milton, $868,000 in Toronto and $831,000 in Ajax, Dawe said.

Other business attraction news is less bleak for the town. While Magna International is moving its head office to King Township, the company that currently owns its Aurora property is actively looking for a tenant.

PreGel Canada, a division of a leading Italian manufacturer of gelato ingredients, ice cream and frozen yogurt mixes and dessert and pastry products, will open an office in Aurora in about a month. The office will likely employ about 20 to 25 people, he said.

"We are actively trying to attract new businesses," Dawe said. 

Town councillors will further discuss a draft cultural precinct plan for the downtown core in about a month, he said. The plan aims to protect existing heritage and focuses on economic development and revitalization in the core.

"How do we connect this area?" Dawe said. "We're looking at how to incorporate some new features. The vision for the precinct is to create an attractive, vibrant, people-centred district that is strongly connected to the many facets in Aurora. (We want) a popular meeting place for social gatherings, concerts and activities. This is conceptual. We want to drive the thinking so we can make this the best we possibly can."

Residents should also expect annual tax increases based on 'prudent' and stable financial planning, Dawe said.

"In order for the town to provide the support and help local businesses grow, we need to have a solid strategic plan," he said, holding a rolled-up copy of the 2016 Aurora Living guide in his hands. "We have created a strong, stable local economy base to foster growth and nurture new and existing businesses in Aurora. I do not believe in zero-per-cent tax increases; our cost of operations goes up on a regular basis. Zero per cent is substituting short-term gain for long-term pain."

The reception hall was packed with well-dressed people. Most of the men wore suits and ties and many of the women donned blazers with colourful blouses underneath, while the guest of honour was in a crisp black suit and tie with a white-and-grey-striped dress shirt. Dawe’s attire was in sharp contrast to the venue setting, where most everything above the floor was white - the tablecloths, the cloth napkins, the plates, the fireplace, the ceiling, the draped backdrop for his speech, even the off-white walls - and there was a crispness to the event.

Three courses were served. A garden salad with vinaigrette for the starter, chicken with a cream sauce, roasted potatoes, asparagus and carrots for the entree and a custard with whipped cream and fruit encased in a hard, chocolate-covered pastry shell for dessert.