New Brunswick

Enterprise Saint John gets 6 month funding reprieve

Saint John city council passed its 2011 operating budget Monday night, but not without some controversy. There was disagreement among councillors on whether to cut funding to Enterprise Saint John.

Saint John city council passed its 2011 operating budget Monday night, but not without some controversy.

There was disagreement among councillors on whether to cut funding to Enterprise Saint John.

The Greater Saint John Economic Development Agency, or Enterprise Saint John, is a not-for-profit agency, funded by the city and the municipalities of Grand Bay-Westfield, Quispamsis, Rothesay, and St. Martins, the province and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). It has a budget of $2 million.

Its mandate is to develop and implement community economic development strategies, attract investment, and assist with business and entrepreneurial development as well as workforce expansion.

Council budgeted $400,000 for the agency, a $43,000 cut from previous years, but several councillors wanted even deeper cuts.

Coun. Bruce Court was among those concerned about where the agency's money is going.

"I'd rather give them nothing," said Court.

Coun. Gary Sullivan said at the very least the city needs some answers.

"I wanna see data that shows the City of Saint John is getting a financial benefit," said Sullivan.

Coun. Mel Norton voted to keep the funding in place. He said Enterprise Saint John does provide help to entrepreneurs and immigrants and it wouldn't be fair to cut that off.

"That sends the wrong message to the entrepreneurs that are in our city," Norton argued.

In the end, councillors voted to provide half of the agency's $400,000 budget up front to Enterprise Saint John. After six months, they'll review that decision and then decide if the agency will receive the rest of its funding for the year.

The issue of whether the city should continue funding Enterprise Saint John has been brewing since last year, with at least one councillor in support of the city creating its own in-house economic development department.

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