City of Mount Pearl
Mount Pearl is the second largest city in Newfoundland. This business friendly city offers vibrant community spirit right along excellent transportation links to all parts of the North East Avalon region. Mount Pearl offers everything one may need to enjoy the comforts of urban living while living in a pristine natural environment — a perfect fusion of natural surroundings, strong business core and community spirit. Mount Pearl that has become well-known in the region and across Canada as a business-friendly city with a great balance for life and for work.
Historically, its adjacent position to St. John’s focused Mount Pearl on developing family-oriented values, building good neighbourhoods, good schools and positioning Mount Pearl for pastime and recreational activities, building a comfortable city to live and building the best place to raise a family. The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Mayor Randy Simms about Mount Pearl and opportunities for the city and its residents to improve and enrich the life in the city, and about opportunities for business to achieve that work/life balance.
“As a city of 25,000, we may be considered as ‘small’, but our size is also what makes us very agile. We are very close to our citizens, which is why people who live here have a close relationship with the local government, unlike what you would see in larger metropolitan centres. That’s what led to an organic development of a level of community cooperation, cohesion and enhancement that is second to none.
“The three core parts of Mount Pearl – the City, the business community, and the community as a whole – work hand in hand together. We were one of the first communities in the province to have a municipal plan, so we have been very fortunate and very smart in this aspect. This helped us to always position us well, bringing on many of the ‘being in the right place at the right time’ opportunities,” says Simms.
One of the challenges the city currently faces in regard to new business is lack of land available for development. According to statistics, a community of about 35,000 is a community of the best size. A community of this size is large enough to accommodate business of any size, yet small enough to be agile in serving its community. This is Mount Pearl. That is why the City decided to challenge the model of constant economic growth, and switch its focus from “constant growth” to a “constant improvement” model.
“The ‘constant improvement’ model means that we always seek ways to do things better in the city. For example, if you look at something as trivial as our trash collection, we have done it better – over the past year, all of our trash collected from containerized units, thus eliminating rodents, seagulls, litter, etc. … we are doing it better and in 50 per cent of the time,” says Simms.
“Our community has a tremendous ‘buy in’ to our strategy of doing things better. Instead of beating down the walls for the sake of growth, we focus on the constant improvement, and once we are done, we will have people knocking on our doors saying ‘we want to get into Mount Pearl because of the services and lifestyle’. When that day comes, the people of the City of Mount Pearl will be sitting on some pretty valuable property.
Mount Pearl draws on its family and recreational heritage when talking about attracting tourism, taking advantage of its proximity to St.John’s and the 250,000 people who visit the Signal Hill. “While we can’t compete with St. John’s in regard to tourist attractions and heritage pieces, we can capture those who come to Newfoundland to play. So we are developing a tourism strategy as a young, modern, compact and active city,” says Simms.
Mount Pearl offers some of the best recreational facilities available, and the recreational tourism is well engrained in the local business. The city receives over 100,000 visitors each year who come to the city to play – everything from hockey and softball to gymnastics. To enhance this tourism, Mount Pearl is building a 60,000 square feet Pearlgate Recreation Multiplex. Scheduled for completion in the summer of 2014 this multiplex will house a 25,000 square feet aquatics complex, a fitness centre with indoor walking track, weight training and fitness program spaces, right along with some retail space, a true recreational hub for the community.
Mount Pearl also works to further develop its business base and attract new business – and doing it in a sustainable way. For some 15 years, the City and its Economic Development Division have been working on business attraction, responding to the changing economic landscape, looking at the city’s strengths in order to retain and expand additional business to the community, shunning from the ‘smokestack-chasing’ tactics (attracting one major employer to the region), and seeking out ways to enhance the business life in the community.
While the oil and gas industry has been in the forefront in the North East Avalon region, Mount Pearl chose not to focus on any one core industry to drive the local business, rather focusing on business diversity and on growing local business towards the services aspect for the region. That is why Mount Pearl’s Donovan’s Business Park and Kenmount Business Park host such a broad variety of industries, covering everything from light manufacturing, oil industry repairs, and warehousing, all the way to wholesale, transportation, and office space.
“Our Economic Development Division works hand in hand with the Planning Division looking at our regulatory regimes, regulations, bylaws, and other things that may be hampering our business community. We are also talking to our business community about what they think we could do to enhance their business. As a result, we have been quite successful, and we anticipate that to continue in the future,” says Simms.
The greatest challenge for the City is to remain on top of the developments in the province and in the city in order to maintain the city’s community feel and remain competitive in business attraction. For example, the City always knew that it would not be able to attract business headquarters in the same way St. John’s does, therefore, the City focused on attracting the business operations. Yet, according to Simms, this is also becoming a way of the past as companies and employees seek out alternatives to downtown living, long commutes and parking challenges.
“Developers are looking in the direction of Mount Pearl, considering constructing high rise office buildings. That’s why we are looking at all bylaws related to building height, parking, transportation systems and so on, because we need to know whether we are able to offer this. The 21st century generations demand harmony that says ‘my lifestyle is just as important as my career’, and Mount Pearl offers just that,” concluded Simms.