Edmonton

StartUp Edmonton gets money to recruit on local university campuses

The city will spend $250,000 to hire three new employees so StartUp Edmonton can recruit students from local universities to work for tech companies.

Council adds $3.5 million in spending to 2019 operating budget

Supplementary budget items stir debate on district energy plan, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

The city is spending $250,000 to help retain local talent in the tech industry. 

The money will go to Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, which runs StartUp Edmonton, to hire people to work local campuses, city council decided Tuesday.

Cheryll Watson, vice-president of Innovate Edmonton, told council that companies from other cities are hiring graduates here, stealing local talent tech companies so badly need.

Coun. Aaron Paquette noted that $250,000 is not a large request but wondered why the work can't be done by universities, tech companies or with present resources at EEDC.

"I don't understand why we need three full-time employees to let students know that StartUp Edmonton exists," he said. "I think that for an organization that's all about innovation, maybe it would be nice to see some of that in action."

Paquette suggested during Tuesday's council meeting that the city wait for a pending audit of EEDC before approving more funding.

At Tuesday's meeting, council added six items to the city's $3-billion 2019 operating budget, amounting to an extra $3.5 million in spending. 

Despite the extra money, Edmonton homeowners will face a 2.6-per-cent tax increase on their property bills for 2019 — the same rate council passed in December.

The owner of a typical home valued at $399,500 will pay $2,586 in property taxes in 2019, an increase of $76 from 2018.

Mayor Don Iveson said the money for the supplemental spending comes mainly from the financial stabilization reserve.

"We did have to fund a couple of emergent items but we found a way to do that, that won't impact the tax for 2019."

In addition to the money for StartUp Edmonton, council agreed to spend:

  • $637,000 on a district energy initiative;
  • $250,000 to help Alberta Art Gallery maintain free admission days;
  • $230,000 for the city to enforce animal protection laws;
  • $521,000 to continue work on revitalizing Alberta Avenue and Jasper Place, and;
  • $1,572,000 Exhibition Lands service package.

Money to monitor Northlands

Council approved $1,572,000 for the city to supervise the site and manage the racetrack area previously looked after by Northlands.

Iveson said the city has an obligation to secure the site.

He said the city has heard from nearby neighbourhoods "about the need to keep the site safe and supervised so that it doesn't become a challenge or a blight."

The funding approval stirred up an old debate about saving the Coliseum and refurbishing it as part of redeveloping the Exhibition Lands. 

"I've been saying this for two years, that we should have demolished the Coliseum and saved the money that we wasted on securing a building that we knew was going to be removed from the site," Iveson said.

Mayor Don Iveson has butted heads with other members of council over the fate of the Coliseum building. (CBC)

Council also approved a new concept to redevelop 160 acres of exhibition grounds into an urban community. Final plans to demolish the Coliseum are pending. 

District energy

Council approved $647,000 for the city's share in designing a centralized energy system, connecting 10 buildings downtown to start. Operated by ENMAX using natural gas to produce electricity and heat, the system is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through better efficiency. 

The first buildings include city hall, the downtown library, Chancery Hall, the Edmonton Conference Centre and Citadel Theatre.

The first phase is estimated to cost $45 million, with the bulk of the investment coming from ENMAX.

The city estimates it would contribute about $2 million total while looking for $15 million funding from other levels of government.

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