Interview with the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Why am I running? I have been passionate about my community for as long as i can remember. Running the business showed me how i could positively impact my community through jobs. Getting involved with other community groups broadened my perspective to other important aspects of our community such as social services, health care, education, community investment and local governance. While working on boards at a regional level i got to live first hand why we (Cambridge and the region) are successful and dysfunctional. I hope to impact the horseshoe positively with my business knowledge, communication skills and most importantly passion to serve because Cambridge Counts!

  1. Biggest issue facing the region and other municipalities in Ontario?

I believe that the most significant issue facing our region/ constituents and other sectors in Ontario is that of debt management.   Balancing investment with taxation prudence in a growing community will be difficult. We need all levels of government to get together and discuss new and innovative ways of investing in much needed infrastructure. Cambridge has the greatest opportunity for growth over the next few years and we must be intentionally collaborative and intentionally competitive in order to engage in smart growth. Encouraging people to come here is important so that we can continue the cycle of investment in our future.

  1. Big bold ideas… I want to be a champion and to contribute by way of my years of experience in human resources, entrepreneurship and leadership in a more impactful way.

Jobs are a critical necessity and people to fit into those jobs are critical. I want to remove barriers for new and existing business so that they can continue to encourage prosperous employment here in Cambridge. I intend on advocating for autonomy in our planning department, maintaining a strong voice in the newly created economic development organization. So we continue to get our share of new business opportunities that fit with our unique and distinctive community.

  1. My thoughts about the newly formed Regional Economic Development Strategy. Again, this is process it’s here we are committed to working with it for a specific amount of time as this was voted on and carried by all mayors and counsels this summer.

We did lose Maple Leaf and it was awful. While i was Chair at Canada’s Technology Triangle (CTT) we conducted a study and had to take a long hard look at ourselves… we need to do a better job of appreciating business existing and interested investors. The study revealed that regionally and municipally that we need to be more competitive with our attraction and retention strategies for business development and existing businesses. Investors and Entrepreneurs don’t waste time when they see opportunity and it’s just too easy to pic a community that will   SHOW THE LOVE. I want to ensure that we seize those opportunities and get them here in our community.

  1. The current structure which has regional council separated as a unity from the local municipality leaves Cambridge vulnerable as seen by the LRT decision and the denial of prorating for Cambridge. We only have 3 voices of the 16. They must be strong. We must be prepared to state our cases with impactful information. It is not simply a matter of process here. In my opinion it is about the incumbents. They cannot be arrogant and believe they know more than the people they represent and legislated to do so may not be the answer. The incumbent must realize their role is to either convince their constituents through transparency as to why they believe what they do and most certainly gain significant information from the people that are expected to pay for these decisions.
  1. Planning to me is a domestic necessity. In order to eagerly engage new business and support growth of existing business we must have our right to plan. I saw firsthand how the double approval system got in the way of opportunity. We should as a city have the autonomy to approve our own planning opportunities. Again, where there is investment there is jobs.. Construction to build, service to serve, finance to finance etc.
  1. To be a grown up community and interest others we need that airport to be viable. It has been a struggle to the tune of 6m annually. The noise issue is a problem because the airport is not busy/big enough to financially support appropriate governance i.e. Air traffic controller. There are a lot of unhappy constituents and we need to look at flight paths etc. If we want to grow this airport we must at least harness the already concerned people to solve issues because as the airport gets desirably bigger… we must also figure out how to deal with noise levels. I have talked to some of the homeowners they know we need the airport but they question the times and unexpected changes of flight paths. I understand Chris at the Airport is conducting info sessions to find resolve here but it will be complicated.
  1. I think the region could have done a better job of community building (region wide). Perceived fairness is a problem and I intend on advocating more inclusivity. Communication and transparency are really important to me. I am seeking the truth and I want to understand perceptions of truth. There have been times when I have disagreed with regional leadership but I do so in a respectful way. Questions are the way to change not statements.

We do gain by way of economies of scale and efficiencies through shared services. Relationships around the regional table are good when there is agreement. I believe in formalized devils advocacy so much so that everyone is talking about impact of decision making on everyone from every angle before we vote. Conflict and diverse opinions are important for finding the way through the complexities of consensus building, collaboration and even competition. Technology today should afford us a better way of reaching out to our constituents on important issues. Thank you for the time Greg, and terrific folks at the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce! For further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Helen Jowett helen@helenjowett.ca 226-339-7096

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