Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff speaks at the CK Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Municipal Update & Mayor's Address. May 23, 2019. (Photo by Matt Weverink)

Annual CK Mayor’s Address focuses on resident attraction, appealing to business

If Chatham-Kent is going to grow, it needs to reduce barriers for business and improve resident attraction and retention.

That was the key message from Mayor Darrin Canniff during his speech at the local Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Mayor’s Address Thursday morning.

A big part of the commitment to keeping people in Chatham-Kent, according to Canniff, is connecting with students in an effort to let them know their voices are being heard.

“It has become painfully obvious to me that we need to do that,” said Canniff. “After talking to the kids, they were so thrilled… I got all these messages from different kids saying, ‘Thanks for listening’ — previously they didn’t feel listened to, but we’ll tie them in and they’ll be heard and they’ll want to come back.”

In addition to speaking with students more often, Canniff pointed to the benefits of the Chatham-Kent to the Power of Young People (CKy) initiative as another way the municipality is making sure young people are heard. He also shared a goal of having all Grade 7 and 8 students in the municipality take part in a civics class in Council Chambers to get them engaged in local politics.

Another key focus for Canniff is making sure existing businesses are happy to be in Chatham-Kent, adding that’s a crucial for attracting new investors.

“Businesses talk… so if they say, ‘You know what, we just went through the ringer,’ people won’t want to come here,” said Canniff. “If business owners are talking to their friends somewhere else and they say, ‘You know what, Chatham-Kent is a great place to have a place of business,’ that’s the first part.”

That commitment to making Chatham-Kent business-friendly includes a renewed focus on reducing red tape, streamlining application processes, and avoiding “surprises” so that potential investors are not bogged down with paperwork.

Canniff said that effort is already paying off.

“Certainly businesses are feeling the love,” said Canniff. “Virtually all of them when we go out there and we talk about this change, they say, ‘That’s good.'”

Other topics covered in Canniff’s speech:

– a commitment to supporting a new multi-sport arena complex in Chatham (with a key vote coming up at CK council on Monday, May 27)

– a commitment to increased development along Bloomfield Road near the Highway 401 interchange

– highlighted the local housing boom — a significant number of housing starts are starting up in Chatham-Kent (on track for well over 200 new houses in Chatham-Kent in 2019 vs. average of 40 new houses per year)

– a focus on fostering more public-private partnerships in Chatham-Kent

– improved public transportation service in the municipality

– a commitment to improving other aspects of infrastructure in Chatham-Kent (internet connectivity, roads, access to utilities like water, hydro, and natural gas)

– a focus on welcoming and retaining newcomers