Mayor Don Iveson calls on Edmonton investors to get in the game

In his State of the City address (available here in PDF) yesterday at the Shaw Conference Centre, Mayor Don Iveson said there are four crucial “pipelines” that must be established in order to actively shape Edmonton’s economic future. The “export” pipeline, the “investment” pipeline, the “talent” pipeline, and the “innovation” pipeline are what we need for growth in Edmonton.

2018 State of the City Address

Most of what Mayor Iveson told the packed room was simply a rehash of ideas he and other local leaders have been sharing for years, updated to use the startup language of the day. What was different this time was the very specific audience he was speaking to. It wasn’t a speech for all Edmontonians, or for community leaders, or even for the business community. Yesterday’s speech was targeted squarely at local investors.

“As it stands right now, we don’t have enough local investment committed to our local innovation ecosystem,” Mayor Iveson said. He noted that too much local money is being sent out of the city to be invested elsewhere. “I’d like to change that dynamic.”

We need Edmonton’s investor class to get engaged

Mayor Iveson started by describing Edmonton’s investor class:

“It doesn’t always look like one might expect. It’s not always dressed in bankers’ suits. It’s not always flashy like in other cities. It’s more reserved and quiet. But it’s deeply committed to this community.”

“A lot of you are in the room today,” he said. “You’ve built your companies in dynamic and creative ways, you employ thousands of Edmontonians and you are proud to call this city home.” Mayor Iveson outlined three key reasons why the investor class should invest locally:

  1. “This is very doable,” he told them. “A lot of early-stage companies in Edmonton don’t require cash in the millions.” Instead, typical seed funding requirements are in the tends of thousands.

  2. “More local, private investment will give our innovation ecosystem more rigour.” Compared to institutional investors, private investors put “a premium on commercial viability and outcomes.”

  3. “Investing in the growth of local companies means actively shaping Edmonton’s economic future.” He appealed to their love of Edmonton. “You care about what happens to this community over the long run.”

“There must be a willingness from our community to place some bets on local innovations, on local entrepreneurs, on local talent,” Mayor Iveson said.

There are billions of dollars under management right here in Edmonton, but startup funding remains elusive. As one example, AngelList currently shows 16 investors from Edmonton with only 11 of those having actually made investments. Mayor Iveson mentioned just one seed fund by name, Panache Ventures. The situation is much better than it was back in 2006, but to say there’s room for improvement would be a huge understatement.

“I recognize I’m asking a lot of you, especially in this fragile economic climate,” he said. “But this is Edmonton’s moment, and your city needs your engagement and support more than ever.”

We need a bigger startup funnel

Noting that Startup Edmonton currently assists about 65 companies per year in their startup phase, Mayor Iveson said “we need to drastically increase the number of companies coming into the ecosystem funnel.” By this time next year, the mayor wants “to at least double the number of start-up companies that are assisted on an annual basis.” To do this, he will be asking City Council and both public and private sector parterns “to make sizeable investments” to help expand the size of the startup funnel.

This is a familiar refrain locally, especially in the tech sector. Increasing the number of startups in Edmonton is of course the whole reason for Startup Edmonton, an initiative that Mayor Iveson has long been a supporter of. Many other initiatives in recent years have focused on increasing the number of local entrepreneurs. Even in last year’s State of the City address, Mayor Iveson talked about the need “to focus on how we take local start-ups to the next level — to zero-in on adopting a scale-up mindset and build a scale-up community that helps our small enterprises grow confidently.”

This time, Mayor Iveson reiterated the importance of local investment. Edmonton needs more than just more companies, he said. “It also needs larger amounts of early-stage capital to help our entrepreneurs go from start-up to scale-up and beyond.”

Mayor Don Iveson

We need to hustle

One of the key messages Mayor Iveson focused on was the need to hustle. “Edmonton has experienced incredible external pressures before, and we have always managed to adapt and get by,” but that’s not good enough anymore, he said. Recent trips to San Francisco and Asia showed the mayor just how hard we need to work just to keep up, let alone get ahead. “From the moment you hit the ground in these places, the hustle is on.”

We have heard this before. When Brad Ferguson took over as President & CEO of EEDC in 2012, he was already sounding the alarm about complacency, calling it “our number enemy.”

This time though, the mayor got a bit more specific. “Today, we have one of the best AI research institutions in the world but we risk being outspent and out-hustled by other provinces and other cities,” he said. While there’s a role for government, “there’s also a significant role for local investors and philanthropists.”

We’re a world leader in the science of artificial intelligence, and we need to aggressively build on that.

We need a bigger talent pipeline

More talent is going to be critical for Edmonton’s growth. “We know we have work to do in terms of developing skilled talent — both locally grown, and talent that we attract from elsewhere,” Mayor Iveson said.

Again, this is not new. At the EEDC Impact Luncheon in January 2016, Brad Ferguson told the crowd that “the most important thing we can do is continue to invest in talent.” In September 2014, the Edmonton in a New Light event touched on the same ideas – be less humble, go tell the world, attract people and investment – but used different language. “The opportunity before us is to let the rest of the world in on the secret of why we’re all here,” Mayor Iveson said at the time.

The mayor did announce yesterday a new partnership with EEDC and LinkedIn “to do a deep dive on Edmonton’s talent landscape” to better understand “the kinds of skills we’re missing to grow our innovation ecosystem.” Based on that, the City will craft “an Edmonton story that is compelling, honest and attractive” and that highlights “the incredible quality of life we have here.” Plenty has been written about our city’s branding efforts and missteps, so while I applaud a more data-driven approach, I find it hard to believe this time will be different.

2018 State of the City Address

We need to sell to the world

Mayor Iveson said that for sustained growth in Edmonton, we need more businesses with a focus on exports. “Companies that aren’t satisfied to stay local, but want to scale up and take their product or service to customers around the world,” he said, and cited Stantec, PCL, Yardstick, Showbie, and BioWare as examples of local companies that “opened global markets through relentless quality and ambition.”

This focus on global should be very familiar by now. Shortly after he won the 2013 election Mayor Iveson started using some new language, “innovative” and “globally competitive” in particular. And even then Mayor Iveson was talking about solving local problems and exporting the solutions to the world:

“As problem solvers, we can do our business cleaner, greener, cheaper, faster and safer – and sell those solutions to the world. This is how we will ensure that Edmonton will compete globally, and endure long into the future, no matter the price of oil.”

He mentioned the new direct flight to San Francisco as one of the ways to enable more exports. “Although we’re in a digital world, the face-to-face meeting is still a vital commodity when it comes to engaging advisors, connecting with partners and making deals,” he said. The flight will be “a tremendous enabler for more Edmonton-made businesses, with global ambitions, to reach beyond Canada.”

We need to use the City as a lab

After talking about the challenges the City faces, Mayor Iveson said “I want to take the burgeoning community of technology minds in our backyard and unleash them on those City problems.” Earlier this month he introduced a motion to have City Administration outline a draft policy or program to make this a reality. And he said he would pursue a “Startup in Residence” program to connect startups with local government.

As early as 2009 the City was trying and failing to accomplish this goal, first with the Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally program. In his 2015 State of the City address, Mayor Iveson talked about Open Lab, “a new partnership with Startup Edmonton that aims to solve municipal challenges in a more entrepreneurial way.” It sounded promising, but it has gone nowhere, and the City even took down its web page about the program.

“Let’s actively shape Edmonton’s economic future by leveraging our local tech talent to help make our established companies become as competitive and innovative as they can be,” the mayor said. He talked about his idea for an “Innovation Hub” downtown, a place to bring together “entrepreneurs, service providers, mentors, investors, talent and business experts in an environment specifically designed to encourage the creation and growth of companies.” In contrast to the manufactured office parks seen elsewhere, the mayor promised it would reflect “Edmonton’s lifestyle where innovation, entrepreneurship, the arts, creativity and vibrant urban life intersect.”

Mayor Don Iveson

Growing Edmonton’s economy is the focus

Mayor Iveson made growing the economy a key election promise last year, so it makes sense that economic development was his focus for this year’s State of the City. Earlier this month he released a report on the Mayor’s Economic Development Summit, and his remarks yesterday built on that. Again, none of the ideas are particularly new, but perhaps by better involving local investors they’ll have a much greater chance of success.

“Edmonton is ready for this,” the mayor said. “Ready to get off the bench and play at a global level.”

Recap: Mayor Iveson’s 2015 State of the City Address

Nobody fills a room like our mayor, Don Iveson. He delivered his second State of the City Address on Monday in front of an absolutely packed house at the Shaw Conference Centre. Roughly 2,200 people attended the annual event hosted by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. We’re in the middle of a provincial election of course, so there were plenty of candidates in attendance yesterday and more than a few people wondering what, if anything, Mayor Iveson might say. On the topic of the provincial government, he did not tread lightly.

State of the City Address 2015

“Edmonton is too important to Alberta’s future to be ignored,” he said near the end of his remarks. “That’s why I’m confident that no matter what Albertans decide on May 5, together, you along with our City Council, will not stand for any provincial government ever forgetting about Edmonton again.”

Mayor Iveson spoke for nearly 30 minutes before getting to that point. He spelled out why Edmonton matters, he talked about the opportunities that are before us, and he consistently pointed out that we could do more if only the Province would come to the table as a partner. “I want to be clear about what partnership means to me,” he said. “It means that both parties recognize their mutual interest in achieving something great together.”

Saying that there have been “some important steps” in the city charter talks thus far, Mayor Iveson made it clear that he expects the new government to continue that work. “To abandon or shortchange the charter would be to miss the chance for Edmonton to be a true partner in building this province,” he said. On homelessness, social services, early childhood education, climate change, and infrastructure, Mayor Iveson said that “Edmonton has shown we do deliver results” and challenged the Province to “give us the responsibility and resources necessary to get to the finish line.”

If there was a theme to the mayor’s remarks, it was resiliency. He opened with a compelling story about the great flood of 1915 that left an estimated 2,000 people homeless and which devastated businesses and entire industries. “Other places in similar circumstances might have let all their hope and promise be swept away,” he said. “But not Edmonton.” His message was clear. Just as our 1915 counterparts made smart decisions for the long-term, so must we.

Though the price of oil is down and there are layoffs in Alberta, Edmonton’s economic picture is much rosier he told us. “Edmonton is weathering this downturn,” he said. Citing the “unprecedented” number of cranes in the downtown, Mayor Iveson talked about the continuing confidence here in Edmonton. Last year Edmonton became the fifth largest region in Canada, “a quiet but important milestone.”

If you’re here in Edmonton, you know these things. But others around the country and around the world do not. “It’s never been more important for us to tell a clear and consistent story about Edmonton,” he said. Yes, he mentioned Make Something Edmonton, but I think Mayor Iveson really intended for his remarks on storytelling to be one of those smart decisions for the long-term. He suggested we start talking about “Edmonton Metro” which at 1.3 million people, “will be a force to be reckoned with.” This is an evolution of the “Edmonton Region” term he started using as soon as he was sworn in as mayor. Unlike “region”, the term “metro” is distinctly urban, is cohesive, and highlights the confidence of Edmonton at its core.

State of the City Address 2015

We need more than a great story for Edmonton to continue to prosper, however. “Mass transit has the potential to transform a city in a way that few other infrastructure investments can,” Mayor Iveson said. He highlighted the federal government’s new transit building fund and said it could be great for Edmonton, “but only if our Province steps up and matches this ongoing commitment.”

He also talked about the task force to end poverty and the importance of sharing Edmonton’s prosperity with all Edmontonians. While work is well underway here, the mayor called out the Province for not taking action since unveiling the Social Policy Framework back in 2013. He talked about the Year of Reconciliation and said “we can show the way for a new vision of Canadian city that lives and breathes the treaty spirit.” He spoke about climate change and said our cities “are not prepared to deal with it.” And he said that “Edmonton can play a role in changing a conversation that has, for too long, hurt the way the world sees us.”

Mayor Iveson also had some interesting things to say about cities. “We’re the agents of change in Canada and, today, we matter more than ever,” he said. “Cities are increasingly the places where the work is getting done.” He talked about how cities “are the crossroads where resources and creativity intersect” and said nowhere is that more true than right here in Edmonton.

His core messages of resiliency and working with the Province were his focus though. “If we want to build a strong and resilient Alberta,” he said, “we need a strong and resilient Edmonton.”

State of the City Address 2015

I thought Mayor Iveson carried greater confidence through his remarks this year compared to last. The highlight of his speech last year, when he looked right at Premier Redford and called for provincial funding for the LRT, was not possible this year with the uncertain political future of Alberta so he needed to be strong throughout. He looked and sounded at ease and his delivery was much better.

It’s true that most of the things he said on Monday were similar to things he said last year. The importance of LRT, the opportunity that comes with being an Aboriginal city, the need to end poverty rather than manage it, the baby steps toward a city charter, and even the need to talk about Edmonton as the heart of the region were all things he touched on in 2014’s State of the City address. But it wasn’t the same message. I think there are two key differences. First, while last year was a bit heavy on ideas and what’s coming, this year he talked about accomplishments, like the task force to end poverty which is well underway or the Open City initiative which is already have a positive impact. Second, he focused on Edmonton’s strengths this year rather than its needs. Edmonton is resilient. Edmonton is compassionate. Edmonton gets things done.

Things are uncertain at best in Alberta right now, but Edmonton is well-positioned for now and for tomorrow. I think it was wise to take advantage of the timing, to contrast Edmonton with Alberta, and to make it clear that Edmonton can play a bigger role in helping turn things around for the whole province.

You can see a few more photos from the event here.

Recap: 2013 State of the City Address

Thousands of Edmontonians filled the Shaw Conference Centre during lunch today for the Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City event. Featuring Mayor Mandel, the event was an opportunity for our city’s business, community, and government leaders to reflect on the past year and to talk about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Or at least, that’s what we were supposed to be talking about. Instead, the only thing on the minds of those in attendance was Mandel’s decision – would he be running again in October or not?

State of the City Address 2013

Many members of Mandel’s family joined him at the head table, including his adorable grandson, and that only fueled speculation that he would be announcing his retirement. As Mandel took the stage, he received a thunderous standing ovation. It was the kind of standing-O that said, “thanks for nine great years.” But it turned out to be premature.

“I know that there is expectation in this moment – one that I set myself – that I would answer a key question today about whether I would seek re-election this fall.

And as much as I pride myself on giving clear answers – I do not have an answer today.”

There was an audible gasp as he spoke the words. Most people were expecting a yes or no – the possibility of a maybe hadn’t even registered! I’ll admit that I was fairly certain he was going to announce that the current term would be his last, but it seems Mandel had more difficulty making a decision than anticipated. “Key issues affecting the state of our City are genuinely unsettled in my mind,” he said.

While Mandel touched on Make Something Edmonton and some of our city’s successes in his slightly-longer-than-normal speech, most of his comments were directed at the Province. And they weren’t positive. Specifically, Mandel focused on spending cuts to the post-secondary sector, and the imbalance of regional costs and funding.

State of the City Address 2013

First, he addressed the post-secondary sector and it’s very large impact on Edmonton, both to our economy now and to our future competitiveness.

“We should expect nothing less than passionate, relentless defense of this sector from our provincial representatives who should know better than to just stand by. We should expect that our Minister would actually engage this sector and challenge them to find solutions.”

Mandel stated that our post-secondary institutions have the potential to be “amongst the best in the world.” He went on to discuss his concerns with short-term thinking, and called for real leadership. “It means setting a course that people can believe in, and being clear about long-term intent.”

Next, Mandel addressed regional issues. While the Capital Region Board has at least started to address the issue of collaboration and planning together, the imbalance in provincial grant allocations “has not been touched,” he told us.

“The taxpayers of a city of 850,000 cannot continue to pay an unfair share of the costs of urban services for a region of 1.2 million. Making all municipalities responsible on both sides of the ledger is the only way to make growth fair – it is also the only way Edmonton can sustain itself.”

Here again, Mandel questioned decisions made by the provincial government in its most recent budget.

“If you really want to make a difference, not just for Edmonton – but for Alberta’s bottom line – this is a great opportunity for change. Because it will cost billions less to pay for a single coordinated regional plan – than for the wish lists of 25 municipalities.”

Mandel clearly had the element of surprise on his side today, and that helped to make the speech even more impactful. Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk reacted strongly to Mandel’s criticisms. “I don’t know who pissed into his corn flakes, and you can quote me on that,” he told the Journal.

State of the City Address 2013

Mandel very much positioned himself as the defender of Edmonton today, and his call-to-action was to speak up for the city. “You know, Edmonton is a funny city,” he said. “We are so fiercely proud of what we have, but too often scared to tell others that we have it.”

Though he acknowledged that his eventual decision about whether or not to run again will impact this year’s election, Mandel urged candidates who may want to run to make their intentions known on their own schedules, not his. That’s easier said than done, of course. No one on City Council seems willing to run against Mandel. If he were to run for an unprecedented fourth term, it’s widely expected that he would win.

Mandel’s non-announcement today has the speculation engines revving. Is there funding news about the downtown arena forthcoming? Is he considering a jump into provincial politics? Who knows, maybe he simply hasn’t made up his mind yet. My own sense is that Mandel must feel as though he can resolve a couple of those “key unsettled issues” over the next few months, otherwise, why not just announce that he’s running again?

Edmonton is a better place because Mandel has been our mayor for the last nine years. He’s given so much to this city and it must be taking a toll, but clearly Mandel feels he has more to give. “My focus remains on the job at hand, on what I owe to Edmonton, and what Edmonton needs.”

Thanks to the Chamber of Commerce for inviting me today. You can read my recap of previous State of the City events here: 2011, 2012. You can read the full transcript of Mayor Mandel’s speech here (PDF), and the rest of his speeches here.

Recap: 2012 State of the City Address

Mayor Stephen Mandel took the stage yesterday during lunch to address the hundreds of local business, community, and government leaders in attendance at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City event. As expected, most conversations were about Monday’s provincial election and Mayor Mandel did touch on that subject in his remarks. I would characterize the mayor’s speech as upbeat, and as Councillor Iveson remarked, perhaps that was because of Monday’s result!

You can read Mayor Mandel’s speech in its entirety here (PDF). He started strong, recalling a particularly memorable comment he made seven years ago:

“I remember the first time I stood here, and I uttered the words ‘no more crap’. On that day, I not only got away with cursing in public, but touched on a sentiment we had all been feeling for many years.”

Whether you like Mandel or not, I think he’s right to point out that during his tenure as mayor, the city has changed significantly and for the better:

“Seven years ago, we were a city organization with no big plans, that avoided dealing with significant challenges and left our true potential unexplored.

Seven years later, we are Canada’s fastest growing city at the core of the country’s second fastest growing region. And we have shaken off a ‘good enough’ pattern by taking care to invest in ourselves and our future.”

Mandel praised the work of City Council and Administration, especially under City Manager Simon Farbrother, for making that happen.

Mayor's State of the City Address 2012

Throughout this remarks, Mandel mentioned a number of projects and initiatives underway in the city. There was big applause for the new downtown arena, the new Royal Alberta Museum, and the City Centre Redevelopment. But he also touched on some of the challenges we face, including the expansion of the LRT, our ongoing struggle with homelessness, and the strong need to better work with and celebrate our growing Aboriginal community. But he saved his most critical remarks for our city’s identity:

“First, we must have an economic development organization that better demonstrates its understanding of the competitive environment our city faces. It must be hungry enough to undertake a relentless effort to sell our city.

Second, we must finally look past all of our reluctant half-efforts to actually work at promoting Edmonton’s story. Without a commitment to this, the former will be very different.

We must be willing to put proper, long-term resources behind a true effort to sell this city to the world.”

Mandel saved his comments on the province for the end. After congratulating Premier Redford and all of the candidates who ran in the election, he made it clear that Edmonton expects change too.

“From our perspective, this election demonstrated how clearly Alberta’s growing urban reality is a major change that has fully dawned on the provincial stage. This election presented near unanimous agreement that it is time for a new deal for Alberta’s big cities. I look forward to working with Premier Redford and Mayor Nenshi to move this agenda forward. I hope this is a discussion we can begin to have very soon.”

Mayor's State of the City Address 2012

The mayor finished his remarks by talking about the people of Edmonton:

“Our place in this great province, our unique economic advantages, our strong cultural identity, our skills at cultivating knowledge and innovation – and most of all, the passion and drive of our people – are the things that are going to ensure our future success.”

All throughout the speech, tweets were displayed on screen and there was a high level of participation from people in the audience. It was really interesting to see how everyone reacted as Mandel spoke. After he finished, Mayor Mandel received a standing ovation.

Reading the speech is one thing, but actually hearing the mayor deliver it is quite another. Thanks to Robin Bobocel and the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to the luncheon!

2011-2012 State of the City Report

state of the cityIn conjunction with yesterday’s address, the City launched its annual report to citizens. The 35 page document covers a wide range of achievements and ongoing initiatives. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Edmonton’s percentage rate of increase in immigration from 2006 to 2010 was 71%, the highest of seven major cities across Canada.
  • The 2011 Graffiti Audit results show a 43% decrease in graffiti vandalism in 20 high-incident neighbourhoods compared to a 2010 baseline audit.
  • As of December 31, 2011, the Cornerstones initiative increased Edmonton’s supply of affordable housing by funding 3038 safe, affordable housing units for citizens.
  • Edmonton roadcrews repaired 549,000 potholes in 2011, up from 435,000 in 2010.
  • Corporations donated 82,470 transit tickets to the Donate A Ride program in 2011.
  • Weekly cumulative bus and LRT boardings increased from 389,224 in 2010 to 397,402 in 2011.
  • Edmonton has protected 4000 hectares of natural areas, working towards a goal of 5500 ha. Most Edmontonians (75%) are now within a 20-minute walk of a natural area.
  • The City’s total debt in 2011 was $1.974 billion, or 53.7% of the debt limit defined by the Municipal Government Act.
  • 34,800 new jobs were created in Edmonton from December 2010 to December 2011, the fastest rate of job growth in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

You can download the report in PDF here.

Recap: Mayor Mandel’s 2011 State of the City Address

Today I had the opportunity to attend the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City Luncheon at the Shaw Conference Centre. Hall D was absolutely packed with government, business, and community leaders – it was a really great turnout! The keynote speaker was of course Mayor Stephen Mandel, who delivered his latest State of the City Address, which you can read in PDF here (the archive of speeches is here).

2011 State of the City
Bella Rouge performed right before Mayor Mandel delivered his address.

Mayor Mandel started off talking about the “amazing arts community in Edmonton”. He talked about the importance of cultivating and investing in our arts industry, and made it clear: “Yes arts are an industry.” He talked about a new arts visioning committee that has been struck, co-chaired by Brian Webb and Diane Kipnes, to focus on raising the profile of arts in Edmonton.

He moved on to discuss working with citizens, something I have been thinking about a lot lately. He said:

And as much as I know we have more to learn in the area of citizen input, we have undertaken more citizen discussion in the last six years than at any other point in our city’s history.

I think Mayor Mandel understands that the way we’ve been doing things isn’t working. The expectations are greater, from both citizens and from the City of Edmonton employees that work so hard on their behalf. We can definitely improve when it comes to public involvement, and I think Mayor Mandel would absolutely be supportive of any such improvements.

2011 State of the City

The big news came about halfway through the address as Mayor Mandel was thanking Premier Stelmach for his support of the city. The Province has committed $497 million in new capital funding (through Green Trip) that will enable us to finish the LRT extension to NAIT.

And today, I am very privileged to say we have received assurances from the Province that money for our NAIT line – almost $500 million in new capital funding – has been secured through Green Trip. This new capital pay-on-progress money has already started to flow with $70 million advanced in 2010 through Green Trip. The balance of the province’s commitment is now confirmed which means LRT to NAIT is right on schedule.

The official Government of Alberta news release is here.

With the approval of the City’s submission for this LRT project, the province has provided $70 million from budget 2010-11 to the City of Edmonton to cover project costs already incurred. The remaining payments will be allocated to the City as progress on construction is made.

This is a big deal in my opinion, and while it did receive a pause and applause during the address, I wish a little more time had been spent on the issue. We cannot understate the impact transit will have on transforming Edmonton into the kind of city we want and need. Mayor Mandel did acknowledge the lack of support Edmonton has received from the federal government, saying that “what’s missing is full engagement of Ottawa on the big city file.” He called for citizens to speak out on the need for an urban agenda, something I can definitely get behind.

Mayor Mandel next spent a few minutes talking about the proposed downtown arena, expressing his “sincere hope that Council will take some constructive steps forward” when the issue is discussed at tomorrow’s Council meeting. “This is a project that has the potential to accelerate our efforts to bring more people, more energy and more activity to our core,” he said.

He lost me a little as he continued talking about the other opportunities we have in the downtown core, such as the Jasper Avenue revitalization and the Walterdale Bridge replacement, saying:

Within this context a broad-based CRL becomes a tool to support our efforts across our entire downtown plan – from Jasper Ave to the Quarters, to our warehouse district. So if we move forward tomorrow on the next steps towards a new arena and entertainment district we are moving forward with this entire vision.
 
I do want to frame what moving forward means. It means that we establish a baseline for a lead investment in a downtown arena project by the City of Edmonton, through a portion of any combination of CRL and a user-fee, both of which can be applied to building capital. 

Tying the future of downtown to the arena project’s CRL sounds risky to me. I’m not sure if that was the intent of his remarks, but that’s what it sounded like. It’ll be interesting to see what Council decides tomorrow (if anything).

2011 State of the City

Mayor Mandel next turned his attention to the economy, noting that efforts are underway to “reconsider the role of agrifood and urban agriculture in our region.” He also suggested that our local food economy may “become the seed of a broader economic effort.” He declared Edmonton’s economic future as “bright” but noted that we need to work hard to ensure we realize those opportunities.

He concluded by focusing on his key message, “that there is so much incredible opportunity here.” In particular, I really like his statement:

The best plans in the world, are really only this, until they are realized.

We actually have to do something about them (hence the second pillar of The Edmonton Champions Project: Connect, Do, Win). I think under Mayor Mandel’s leadership we have gotten better at this, but there’s still room for improvement.

2011 State of the City2011 State of the City

Throughout his speech, Mayor Mandel talked about the need for “a higher level of integration and collaboration.” He mentioned it a few times, almost more than “creativity” which seems to be his usual favorite word. I thought he did a good job of highlighting how working together can really make a difference, citing examples such as the Homeless Commission, REACH Edmonton, and the progress the Capital Region Board has made.

Given that there’s a federal election going on, I was particularly interested in Mayor Mandel’s comments on the relationship with the federal government, which we know has been strained at times. To start, he talked about the partnership with the Province and the success it has achieved:

It is based on understanding that municipal government, which is closest to the people is best to lead on key projects and that choosing an aligned path is better for our common citizen.

Then he made it clear – “it is also the message that our City must send to Ottawa through all parties and all MPs.”

All in all it was a great lunch and an uplifting address. My thanks to Robin Bobocel and the Edmonton Chamber for allowing me to join them for lunch today! You can see my photos from today here.