Businesses must be more innovative than ever: MacIsaac

Eleanor Tait The Hamilton Spectator Dec. 2

The rules for determining a city's economic success have changed in the 12 years since Rob MacIsaac was first elected to council.

And last night in his inaugural address setting the tone for his third term as mayor, the 41-year-old issued a challenge to local businesses.

"To survive and to thrive in this new world order, our response cannot be to do more of the same things we have done in the past. Imagining new ways of doing things to succeed, even in the face of what seem like insurmountable obstacles, requires the right people ... people who are innovators and creators.

"In the 21st century, intellectually active cities will be the most prosperous on the world stage."

He prefaced the comment by saying a commercial realtor told him of a company looking to expand in Burlington that could produce its product for $21 a unit. By moving to China, they could produce the same product and ship it to Canada for $2 a unit.

"That is the challenge we are now facing in the 21st century. And it is not simply a Canadian phenomenon. There is a kind of hollowing out of our economy occurring where manufacturing is leaving but front offices are remaining."

Burlington is dependent on manufacturing for much of its employment and tax revenue, he said.

Landing a post-secondary institution in Burlington will help the city compete, he told a city hall council chambers packed with invited friends, family and community leaders. Along with training people in creative skills, a university would attract a new pool of highly skilled and educated professionals.

"Professors will add vitality in terms of new ideas, new ways of thinking and present Burlington with an innovative image."

Council recently agreed to establish a task force to explore bringing a college or university campus to the city. It may start as a satellite of an existing institution but MacIsaac hopes it will be an independent facility in 10 years.

He said the city can also attract innovators and creators by continually enhancing the quality of life. He called for another hotel and convention centre on the waterfront and development at the east end of the lakeshore.

The mayor said the next three years will see the city continuing to fight the proposed mid-peninsula highway, protecting parkland at General Brock High School after it closes in June and helping Performing Arts Burlington bring to reality plans for a 750-seat performing arts centre.

He took the oath of office from Superior Court Justice Ray Harris, a long-time family friend. Also sworn in were councillors: Ward 1 Rick Craven, Ward 2 Joan Lougheed, Ward 3 John Taylor, Ward 4 Jack Dennison, Ward 5 Mike Wallace and Ward 6 Carol D'Amelio -- the same council as last term.

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