Home Sustainable Okotoks 10 Branches of Sustainability 5. Economic Opportunity
5. Economic Opportunity
As Sustainable Okotoks' second pillar of sustainability, economic opportunity is key in a community's survival. The Town has an economic vision for a larger business community which will provide local employment and services for our residents with associated positive environmental, social and fiscal benefits.
22% total assessment base is commercial, 40% of labour force commutes to work outside Okotoks
The commercial assessment ratio has risen from 11.7% in 1998 to 13% in 2007.
The ratio of the labour force commuting outside Okotoks for work has fallen from 60% to 47.59%.
While the shift in assessment ratio may not look significant it is. This shift has been achieved despite extraordinary population growth rates - 66% between 1998 and 2004 (exceeding 10% annually).
Assessment base shift target creates more business development and employment opportunity, not less. The move is from 12% commercial/industrial, 88% residential assessment base to 22% commercial/industrial, 78% residential by buildout. Provincial average (1997) for town status communities is 24% commercial/industrial and 76% residential assessment base (much more land area has been identified to reach this target, creating more business opportunity).
Economic generation initiatives seeking to better balance the tax base (thereby being able to afford enhanced services) have included:
Regional Trade Area
Development of mixed land use and proportionately more commercial and industrial land will ensure that Okotoks develops into a regional service centre, creating additional spinoff business opportunity (eg. education, office complexes, selected industry). More money will remain in the community also benefiting existing businesses. This is supported by substantial relaxation of homebased business regulation in the Land Use Bylaw, creating potential for development of a strong homebased core that becomes the next generation of storefront and industrial businesses.
The trade area will still greatly expand, providing a trade area market for local products and services. Rather than exporting income out of our community, as we do now, the MDP aims to import dollars into the town through strong sense of community vision, and preservation of small town atmosphere creating a distinct shopping destination through design practices. The Calgary Region will have a population increase of 250,000 people south of Highway 22X over the next 30 years. High River, Turner Valley/Black Diamond, and the MD of Foothills will experience significant growth.
If we project the region's current planning practice (growth without limits) into the future, the cost of infrastructure upgrades will impact negatively on taxation levels and utility rates, leaving the community with less of a competitive advantage. Okotoks' ownership of municipal water and sewer utilities creates a sustainable long term competitive tax and utility rate.
Unique identity created through strong architectural, site, and community design produces greater visitation and investment. This means short term cost, long term gain. Residents have said they want Okotoks to be more than "another suburb of Calgary". The result is the development of commercial cells rather than strips, mixed land use, the incorporation and modification of neo-traditional urban design principles (eg. Mackenzie Towne) and creation of architectural guidelines for downtown buildings, signage, and site design.
The town has created a vision for the development of a green business / industrial park targeting a market niche that we presently do not have (eg. high tech, green, knowledge based industry). For a large portion of the remaining commercial tax base required, the Town would like to nurture this type of 'green' business development. Silicon Valley evolved as a place with proximity to the "big city", but sold itself as a community place where quality of life had first priority.