Any growth is good growth.
That’s the message Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Al Hawkins communicated after the most recent development statistics were announced at last Tuesday’s council meeting.
The report, which includes data for the first quarter of this year, sates that the total value of building of permits in Grand Falls-Windsor has increased by a whopping 440 per cent to $9.8-million as compared to the same period in 2011.
According to Gary Hennessey, economic development officer with the Town, these stats include the new 50,000-foot Kent Building supplies store, an extension to Exploits Valley High, and other new construction projects.
Moreover, the report states residential units have increased from just four in the first quarter of 2011, to 33 so far in 2012.
“In the last two years we’ve had a fair amount of residential growth,” said Mayor Hawkins. “To give you some idea of the scale of growth, last year we ended up with close to 100 housing starts.”
Mayor Hawkins said since the several years of business apprehension due to the closing of the Abitibi-Bowater mill has more or less passed, there’s a new sense of optimism in the Town that’s actually translating into more construction, and more commercial growth.
“There was a lot of apprehension when the mill closed because of the uncertainty – people didn’t know what was going to happen, and I think a lot of (the things) people were afraid of didn’t materialize,” said Mayor Hawkins. He attributes this change in attitude to the boom in the mining sector, redevelopment of areas in town like High Street, and investments in other industries.
And it’s not only new buildings that indicate positive growth in the region.
According to Hennessey, 22 new businesses opened their doors in 2011, with 16 other businesses shutting theirs.
In just four months into 2012, 17 new businesses have opened in Grand Falls-Windsor, and there are eight additional applications pending. Seven businesses have closed this year, but three of those have had their spaces taken over by similar businesses.
So even though there are companies moving out of the region, or closing their doors entirely, the overall growth is positive.
“We’re building confidence in out local economy,” said Mayor Hawkins.
He added that large stores like Kent setting up shop in town as well as the overall increase in development sends a sense of optimism to possible new retailers.
“All of that sends a positive message out there that retail is significant here in Grand Falls-Windsor.”
New businesses opening their doors in Grand Falls-Windsor will be paying a little more for developed land in the region after council passed a new regulation at last week’s meeting.
Serviced commercial land, meaning already equipped with water and sewer service and ready-to-build on, will now be sold at a minimum of $80,000 per acre. If development costs exceed $80,000 per acre, the price will increase, so the Town can make up the development costs.
“The thing about it is, there’s not a heck of a lot of land we have left, but we do have some commercial areas, crown land, that we’ve bought and taken over,” said Mayor Hawkins.
Mayor Hawkins said the previous council had made deals with businesses to sell commercial land much cheaper than what it cost to develop it in order to encourage construction.
“We’re saying that $80,000 is what we think is an appropriate fee…because obviously we have to recover the development costs,” said Mayor Hawkins. He added that the new price is still very competitive, and there’s no worry the regulation will dissuade possible buyers.
Overall, Mayor Hawkins said he’s encouraged by the growth that’s been reported this quarter.
“Any time you see growth, it’s positive, and we anticipate another very good year,” he said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the momentum will continue.”