Summary of the video conference meeting of Aurora Council reporting out the October 6, 2020 Closed Session and summary of the video conference of October 6, 2020 Special Meeting of Council, both centered on the Aurora Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) Board.
Video Link to both meetings (total time of 23 min 30 sec):
October 6, 2020 Closed Session Meeting Documents: (Agenda & Minutes): https://bit.ly/2Fd8hzn
According to the October 6, 2020 Closed Session meeting agenda, the discussion in the closed session video conference meeting (Zoom) was to appoint two individuals to the AEDC Board of Directors (Closed Session Report No. PDS20-064).
After completion of the closed session meeting, Council reported out and all members of Council voted unanimously to receive the report. It was a recorded vote, meaning that the vote (yes or no) of each member of Council is recorded and published. Before voting, Cllr Thompson asked for clarification that the vote is to receive the report only and will not include the confidential directions. The Clerk confirmed – that Council is voting only to receive the report and the direction will come from the next meeting right after this, Special Meeting of Council – Aurora Economic Development Corporation Annual General Meeting (AGM) Report 2019.
October 6, 2020 Special Meeting of Council Documents (Agenda & Minutes): https://bit.ly/3nQuhRT
October 6, 2020 Special Meeting of Council started with presentation by Tim Hammill, Chair, Board of Directors, AEDC.
Video link (at 3:12): https://youtu.be/1h08V1nRAcE?t=192
Mr. Hammill presented a shorter version of the submitted Aurora Economic Development Corporation AGM Report and claimed to make a few additional comments. According to the slide (outdated information from 2019) the AEDC Board was incorporated in December 18, 2018, a working group was appointed to the Board in 2019 by Council and the Board formally appointed officers of the Corporation in May 2019.
Looking at the slide it is worth noting that currently in 2020 Anthony Ierullo is no longer with the AEDC Board since he is no longer an employee of Town of Aurora; and Cllr Michael Thompson is also no longer with the Board, reasons unknown.
In his appreciation statement, Mr. Hammill acknowledges Nick Kazakoff, Economic Development Officer and David Waters, Director, Planning and Development Services for their support. Also, Doug Nadorozny, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AEDC (non-voting), was acknowledged by Mr. Hammill stating that ‘he [Mr. Nadorozny] is responsible for all the good stuff and all the bad stuff we do.” Mr. Nadorozny is currently Town of Aurora Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).
Mr. Hammill then advanced to the next slide and talked about the Town of Aurora Economic Development Strategic Plan development process adopted by Council on July 23rd, 2019. The Board’s mission, stated in the following slide, is “to build a diversified economy for the future” and he further elaborated that “clearly Aurora has a diversified economy because it faced the significant impacts of COVID this year and did reasonably well in that and more diversification of our economy in the future will only help us to cushion ourselves against any downturn in the future.”
In 2019 the AEDC Board prioritized 42 action items and 10 action items for immediate action. Three sub-committees were formed Target Sector Analysis, Downtown Business Mix Strategy and C-Suite Resident/Business Attraction. The Board also recruited two new directors to fill two vacancies. The names will be announced later in the meeting.
Mr. Hammill mentioned that it was good that the Target Sector Analysis sub-committee (led by Marilee Harris, Sub-Committee Chair) didn’t happen before COVID “because obviously COVID has affected the way the different business sectors are going to be carried on going forward. It either accelerated the changes that are already there or it created opportunities for corporations to manage themselves differently in the future.”
The second sub-committee Downtown Business Mix Strategy (led by Steve Hinder, Sub-Committee Chair) is centering on the Aurora Downtown businesses. “It is important that we look at this opportunity for the community. We have a very extremely highly educated high income population relative to the rest of the GTA and they are looking for opportunities to spend their disposable income and we would like that to happen within the community, hence explore Aurora, but addressing the optimum business mix is our strategy for downtown, is going to enhance keeping those dollars in the community.” Mr. Hammill elaborated.
On October 10, 2019 in The Auroran, Brock Weir reported in the news “With the bulk of the heritage properties in Aurora’s historic downtown core being owned by less than a handful of individuals, the Town of Aurora is leaving the door open to possible redevelopment as it looks at options to beautify the Aurora Promenade.” Source “Streetscape improvements for Aurora Promenade receive green light.” Also, reported in the Aurora Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors MINUTES, June 23rd, 2020; Section 5.4 Sub-Committee Reports, Sub-Section 5.4.1 Downtown Business Mix Strategy that “Steve Hinder informed the Board that discussions had been had with the downtown’s major landlord in the winter and would like to have a follow up to see how things are going.”
Next, he talked about the third sub-committee, C-Suite Resident (Mae Khamissa, Sub-Committee Chair), “while we have a very high proportion of individuals with secondary education that are doing very well in their different industry categories, unfortunately a majority of those people are working outside the community. This is a real opportunity for us to try to convince, to try to access those individuals and convince that they ought to be moving their organization, or part of their organization, or making new start up investments in this community based on not only how desirable our workforce is but that the changes that are coming forth in areas like, for example, the downtown.”
A good definition of the C-Suite here from the February 4, 2020 Economic Development Strategic Plan – Implementation Strategy 2020 report prepared by Nick Kazakoff, Economic Development Officer: “C-Suite (top senior staffers including CAOs, CEOs, CFOs) residents living in Aurora. The goal of the program is to uncover business attraction and investment opportunities through connections with C-Suite residents.”
Lastly, the board recently recruited two new directors to fill two vacancies and board was “really heartened to see a tremendous response of applications and the qualifications of the individuals applying were just outstanding; and it’s given us not only two excellent candidates to push forward our sub-committee work but given us a roster of individuals that will be accessible to help us in the future. We have a very gifted community.”
Comments and Question from Members of Council
Next comments and question from members of Council to Tim Hammill, Chair of the AEDC Board, or to the report itself. In this segment of the meeting various questions are asked by members of Council.
Video (at 12:53): https://youtu.be/1h08V1nRAcE?t=773
Cllr Rachel Gilliland acknowledged the Board’s hard work and asked about the composition of the sub-committees and how sub-committees will work. Specifically asked if there will be recruiting for each sub-committee. Mr. Hammill elaborated that the sub-committee make up will be approximately three directors and also looking to possibly bring on support from the community if needed to help the directors on those sub-committees. Cllr Gilliland asked if there will be any engagement via open houses to attract and network within the sub-committees to try to branch out. The outreach to the community will happen once the sub-committees develop a clear path for their project, the Chair of the Board replied. The Board wants these sub-committees to work independently and generate ideas on their own.
Councillr Michael Thompson took a moment to acknowledge the AEDC Board and their work; and Cllr Thompson also mentioned his experience with the Board and was sorry for stepping down from the Board. Also commented, “I appreciate you touching upon in your presentation the recruitment process as well as the selection process for the two new board members. You know, I think that at the end of the day it’s important that the board chooses those candidates. I know you go through a rigorous process and there was much debate at the council at the committee meeting for finding the right fit and I’m certainly very supportive and look forward to seeing more good things in the future. Thank you Tim.”
Councillor Wendy Gaertner talks about the workload of the group, perhaps more work than you [Tim Hammill] expected and asked him if he hoped that the sub-committees will decrease that workload. Mr. Hammill replied that Board is not concerned about the workload, but dissipating members concentration – “they want to go forward and want to produce a result.” She also asked about reporting methods of the sub-committee to the Board and will Council be able to see that information as well. Mr. Hammill, stumbled on that one, but said yes he is encouraging them to have meeting minutes. They do report to the Board monthly and as everything settles more formality will be adopted in the working process. He also said that he wants to keep the sub-committees “fluid as I can because the reality is that’s where the innovation and the work is going to get done.”
Councillor Sandra Humfryes thanked the board, is excited and appreciated the diversity of the individuals on the Board. She is looking forward to a lot of great things ahead and to be part of the group. Note: Councillor Humfryes currently serves on AEDC Board.
Councillor Thompson comes back a second time to comment and this time acknowledged Nick Kazakoff, Economic Development Officer and Town of Aurora employee (replacement to Anthony Ierullo) for his contribution to the AEDC Board. “He certainly supports this committee in addition to his normal duties for the Town and I just want to acknowledge him and thank him for his constant contribution as well. Well done Nick.” Mr. Hammill adds, “This group could not function without him, literally couldn’t function without him.”
On July 23, 2019 Council Meeting (at 26:54) https://youtu.be/Q-lBVx2KyJk?t=1614 during the Town of Aurora Economic Development Strategic Plan presentation to Council, nice things were said about Anthony Ierullo as well. Marilee Harris (Board Vice-Chair) commented: “Anthony is a rock star as far as everything he’s done he’s kept us on track, the man knows so much. He’s been on this file the last ten years I’ve been involved and he’s been patient and he’s been doing a wonderful job on your behalf so I just wanted to acknowledge. Thank you.”
On this October 6, 2020 Special Meeting of Council, Councillor Harold Kim (smiling throughout) and Councillor John Gallo (deep in thought) had no questions or comments for the presenter or any questions to the report.
Mayor Tom Mrakas (currently serving on AEDC Board), also acknowledged AEDC, “Tim thank you very much for coming and obviously, I mean, the work that the Board does, I’m looking forward to seeing how we move forward especially with the two new members. It’s going to be an exciting time, lots going on in the Town from an economic development standpoint and while we are in a pandemic I think our Board has been working tremendously, to make sure that you know, our businesses are staying afloat and how do we thrive as we come out of this. So kudos to you and the Board for all the work that you guys are doing, and like I said, I’m looking forward to the future growth of our economic development in our Council. Thank you for all you do.”
On February 4th, 2020 General Committee meeting Mayor Tom Mrakas expressed his frustration with the Aurora Economic Development Corporation Board sighting wrong report in front of him – “I sit on the Board but some of this in front of me comes a bit of a shock because the list of 10 when we had discussions at the Board we talked about whittling it down to three. There are also some things in this list that we actually removed and I can give you an example number four, work with Magna to retain the permanent head office in Aurora. We removed that because I specifically stated to the Board that the Office of the Mayor is already dealing with this issue and the Board does not need to deal with this and so we removed it and we did whittle down some of these items. I also don’t understand how number two is number two …” (at 1:37:02 https://youtu.be/CWb7WzDQ2Yw?t=5822). Councillor Humfryes expressed her concern – “I think the report is incorrect. I think it’s the wrong one.” Her frustration sounded a bit more reasonable in the public view.
The meeting was concluded with the Aurora Council voting as follows on the Recommendations below:
1. That Report No. PDS20-063 be received; and
2. That the Aurora Economic Development Corporation’s Director’s Report attached hereto as Attachment 1 be received; and
3. That the requirements regarding the appointment and duties of the auditor be exempted for the financial year; and
4. That Council appoint the following two (2) individuals to the Aurora Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) Board of Directors for a term of three years:
Thai Pham and;
5. That Council approve a special resolution passed by the AEDC Board of Directors to increase the number of local residents or business owners to nine and to decrease the number of Council representatives to two.
Recorded Vote: Cllr Gaertner (YES), Mayor Mrakas (YES), Cllr Kim (YES), Cllr Gallo (NO), Cllr Humfryes (YES), Cllr Thompson (YES), Cllr Gilliland (YES).
Anna Lozyk Romeo