Mayor: growth north and east is key to Brockville’s future

Brockville Mayor David Henderson addresses attendees at the Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce Mayor's Update Breakfast Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at the Brockville Country Club. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

BROCKVILLE – With a small footprint, the city’s mayor says regional development will be key to Brockville’s future growth.

“We are limited. We have five kilometers by five kilometers in the City of Brockville. If we’re going to have any real growth or change across this area, it’s got to go from Brockville to Cardinal,” David Henderson said.

Henderson was speaking to attendees about the state of the city during the Mayor’s Update Breakfast at the Brockville Country Club.

His presentation was entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Possible”, noting some of the achievements, like in tourism with 20,000 plus visitors in the first couple months of the Aquatarium opening, when the goal for an entire year was 30,000-50,000.

Quoting Mark Twain, Henderon said the industrial demise of Brockville have been greatly exaggerated. He described Brockville General Hospital – the largest city employer – and St. Lawrence College as recession proof industries which weathered the ups and down in manufacturing.

But it’s also about having the space for development. “One of the reasons we are actively pushing for new business partners in the north end – 135 or 140 acres – the reason for trying to accelerate it and push that…get it certificated…get to the point where we can take it to the market,” the mayor said.

While Brockville has a smaller Giant Tiger distribution center, Henderson suggested that Brockville missed out on the facility being built in Johnstown because “we talking to them about that facility here. It didn’t work out here for a number of reasons. Prime one was we were not ready to go.”

Even so, the mayor was highlighting the positive of Johnstown, calling it the future economic possibility for the region. Having people working in Johnstown will mean they will more than likely live and shop in Brockville, he said.

As for city amenities, Henderson said parks and walking trails attract people to the area and makes the city attractive.

The mayor also suggested the city had possibly shaken the idea of not inviting seniors to Brockville. “We kind of took that on directly. That’s not a bad thing. Bringing retirees in, is a good thing. Sell your house in Toronto, buy your house here, you have a good pension, that’s a good thing. Remember, a retired teacher with a full pension is almost the equivalent of a factory job at Proctor & Gamble. That’s a scary thought, but it’s true.”

Also speaking on population, Henderson said the city will have to embrace diversity with an aging population and families have fewer children. “This isn’t just us, this is everybody in Canada…but we’re ahead of the game. We’re an aging community.”

As for the summer ahead, Henderson said this should be “one of best summers in a long time” in Brockville. While some bemoan the low Canadian dollar, he said the low loonie is an opportunity to attract tourists from the United States and is also “attractive for Canadians to stay here.”

He also suggested the low dollar also changes investment action. “It means those (Canadian) companies start investing here and start adding people here,” Henderson added.

Looking ahead to the possibilities, the railway tunnel project, the waterfront, improvements to the Brock Trail, more bike lanes are all on the mayor’s radar for the road ahead.