Mayor Easton’s State of the Town Address highlights the great things happening in the Lincoln, progress over the previous year, and highlights of what’s to come in the year.
The event is hosted by the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and takes place annually in the spring.
Good afternoon everyone. It’s great to see all of you here today! I don’t know where time goes but it is great to be back here at Rockway, such a perfect setting to share some highlights from last year and a look ahead to what we can expect and plan for in 2023.
Before I do, I would like to acknowledge some special guests and dignitaries in attendance today.
- First, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. Thank you for hosting this successful event every year. Your hard work and dedication to the local business community are very much appreciated.
- Many thanks to Niagara Peninsula Energy Inc for sponsoring this event again this year.
- I’d like to acknowledge my colleagues on Town of Lincoln Council present today:
- Councillor Dianne Rintjema – Ward 1
- Councillor JD Pachereva – Ward 2
- Councillor Lynn Timmers – Ward 4
- Councillor Greg Reimer – Ward 4
- The Office of MPP Oosterhoff for Niagara West is in attendance
- My colleague at Regional Council, Regional Councillor for Lincoln Rob Foster is with us today.
- And several senior staff members from the Town of Lincoln who drive the projects and initiatives I will tell you about today.
It is hard to believe we are now almost halfway through the first year of our new Council term. This new Council has been working hard to build on our recent accomplishments and continues to strive for excellence in efficient and effective service delivery. The Lincoln community is growing, advancing, and shining in the heart of Niagara.
A growing and changing community presents many opportunities. But it also brings challenges. And that sometimes means making difficult decisions, always with the best of intentions and the well-being of our residents and businesses top of mind.
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Lincoln is well equipped to meet these challenges.
Significant progress of this kind does not happen by accident. It takes strong leadership, deliberate planning, and extensive consultation to ensure we are doing what is right for the community.
Today I will talk at great length about how as a municipal government, we are:
- Rising to the leadership challenge to create healthy communities;
- Bringing hope and opportunity to young people, the disadvantaged, and the rising stars; and
- Collaborating to make a bright and prosperous future for Lincoln.
We have come a long way, and there is still work to be done. I see 2023 as a springboard for even greater things to come. We are building on our initiatives and achievements of the past several years as we continue to meet the changing needs of our growing community.
In 2018, Council developed a set of priorities in a document titled Strategic Planning for a Future-Fit Lincoln. These priorities were set to support Lincoln's vision of being a Welcoming, Connected, Vibrant and Resilient community. This “Future-Fit Lincoln” is one that benefits all members of our community. From newly arrived residents to families that have been living in Lincoln for generations; from the fledgling start-up to the century-old, multi-generational business.
In the last year of the last term of Council, we prioritized completing our workplan and addressing all priorities in the strategic plan. I am pleased to say that all of Council’s priorities were acted upon, either with short-term activities or long-term planning. And this current term of Council is hard at work to build upon them.
This is a significant accomplishment. We are leading the charge in Niagara in planning for our future. Town Council and staff go through an extensive process to ensure any plans and initiatives are deliberate and intentional. These plans are relevant, current, and responsive to not only our local environment, but also the world around us.
Communication and Engagement
Communication and engagement with the community is at the core of what we do. Without this two-way loop, we are driving in the dark without headlights.
We provide many opportunities for public engagement to inform our processes and decisions. Every decision is based on our fundamental role, which is to create a healthy community that benefits residents, businesses, and visitors.
Part of being a healthy community means being open to fresh ideas and new perspectives, being a place where residents and business owners participate fully and where government is open and transparent.
In 2022, we made great strides in our two-way communication with the public. We continued to leverage opportunities for both in-person and digital engagement. It has been so wonderful to be able to meet again in person. And we have also ramped up our digital presence and increased direct mailings to provide convenient ways for people to share their thoughts and get involved.
Our new and improved Lincoln.ca launched earlier this year. The redesigned website expands our online services, is easier to navigate and better showcases our vibrant community, as well as the programs and services the Town offers.
We strive to meet community members where they are and ensure they are receiving timely and accurate information from the Town via the method that works best for them.
Speak Up Lincoln is thriving, featuring dozens of community projects and initiatives at any one time. Residents and business owners can ask questions, share feedback on specific projects and engage in dialogue with Council and staff. Since it launched in 2021, thousands of community members have filled out surveys, shared information or asked questions.
Effective communications and community engagement are of utmost value to every citizen in Lincoln. Being informed brings peace of mind, and being heard helps people feel understood and that they belong to a collective.
Welcoming and Engaging Public and Open Spaces
A crucial aspect of being a connected and welcoming community is to create exceptional public spaces while preserving our natural landscapes.
I cannot speak to this enough. Many of you have heard me talk about the social determinants of health. What we have done – and continue to do – to create a healthy, livable community and the highest possible quality of life in Lincoln is beyond measure. But I will touch on a few points.
In 2022, we added innovative and ecological features at Ashby Park and completed the Town’s second destination park, Rotary Park. This incredible public space includes access to walking trails, sports amenities, a concrete skatepark and asphalt pump track, an accessible play area, fitness equipment and a butterfly garden.
Rotary Park was made possible by a $100,000 investment from the Rotary Club of Lincoln, the Fleming Foundation, which committed $100,000 to the creation of the Val Fleming Butterfly Garden, and both the provincial and federal governments, which contributed $104,000 to the cost of the playground. It also recently received a design award through the Region’s Biennial Awards program.
Rotary Park is an example of the great things that can happen when everyone works together. The planning of this area took many, many years. And it is truly a complete community. People live there. People work there. People can shop close by. They can play there. There is the library, the arena, gardens, and now public art.
People come from surrounding communities to visit Rotary Park – it is truly a destination for thousands in the area. What a great space for everyone to enjoy and a testament to who we have become as a Lincoln community.
We have made great strides in collaborating and gaining better understanding of the Indigenous communities in Lincoln and Niagara. This progress cannot be understated. There is more work to be done, and we continue to listen, learn, and move forward together, always seeking to meet on common ground.
Lincoln has a history of human inhabitation that dates back at least 12,000 years. The village of Jordan is a particularly important site of Indigenous settlement in Southern Ontario, with recent archaeological evidence confirming settlement by the Attawandaron or ‘Neutrals’ dating to the early c.1600. A Neutral Nation archaeological site showing evidence of multigenerational settlement sits less than 500 m from the park in Jordan Hollow.
We are working with Indigenous advisors to recognize and honour this history through the redevelopment and renaming of the park in Jordan Hollow, to Sho’aríshon (So-ah-ree-son) Park. This park will be a landmark site in Niagara featuring public art, gathering spaces, interpretive signage, and trail connections. Indigenous advisors have included the Niagara Regional Native Centre, a Kanien’kéha language specialist, an archaeologist and expert on the Neutral Nation, and Plenty Canada.
I truly cannot wait to see the progress of this cultural hub for Lincoln, with our Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre at a stone’s throw.
Connected, Vibrant Communities
To create a vibrant, thriving community, we make ongoing and purposeful investments in roads, bridges, and essential infrastructure to support growth and ensure our existing assets are in good repair. Our capital budget includes investments in transportation, water & wastewater projects, facility upgrades and enhancements to outdoor public spaces. We are progressing well on the Jordan Village Improvement Project, which will build a connected and beautified neighbourhood that focuses on safety, complete streets, landscape appeal and local heritage.
I am so excited to see the revitalized Jordan Village once the project is completed, and on behalf of Council, we thank staff, our contractors, and the residents and business community for their continued patience and cooperation. This neighbourhood will be a shining star in Lincoln.
There are too many projects to name here today but be sure to take a copy of the latest Public Works Quarterly Report. There is so much happening under the ground and behind the scenes here in Lincoln to keep everything and everyone connected, safe and moving forward. These are the projects that you may not think of at every passing moment, but they affect every aspect of our daily life. They are the backbone of our municipal service delivery.
It is important for the Town to proactively plan for growth – both in new areas of development like Prudhommes, and in revitalizing core, historic neighbourhoods. Last year, we consulted extensively with community members on the Ontario Street Urban Design Vision and Streetscape Master Plan. We heard about opportunities to create attractive and vibrant public spaces, increase active transportation connections, and ensure appropriate transitions between new and existing development.
Our next point of focus will be Vineland through the Downtown Vineland Urban Design Master Plan. We plan to engage the community extensively to ensure design is sensitive to the community and development is approached thoughtfully, with many opportunities for engagement through Speak Up Lincoln and public and Council meetings.
In all of these initiatives and plans, we want to hear from you. Tell us what a revitalized downtown will mean for your business. For your clients. For your families.
Please share your personal stories of you, your family or your ancestors came to Lincoln, and what footprints you have left on the collective community’s path.
As we progress on these initiatives, your input makes the world of difference for shaping our community – from its history to the next chapters of our collective story.
Business and Economic Development
Despite ongoing social and economic challenges throughout Ontario and indeed the world, we are proud of our economic output and continued growth in 2022. Lincoln saw agricultural expansion and investment, and greater productivity and diversity both in advanced manufacturing and in agriculture.
In fact, confidence in the national economy is growing, and interest rates are leveling. This is excellent news from a macro-economic level, and we are also seeing greater optimism in our local economy. Lincoln is a community on the rise.
I have been constantly amazed by the strength of our Council, Town staff, residents and businesses and our ability to face extraordinary challenges. The Town of Lincoln’s business community has demonstrated extreme resilience and creativity and shows promise of growth and economic prosperity into the future.
In 2022, we saw several exciting new craft beverage and culinary businesses open their doors. Dorken Systems in Beamsville’s industrial park is undergoing a major addition and the first phase of the Bartlett Road industrial mall is now home to seven new businesses. Work for the second phase of the industrial mall is underway.
These are valuable investments in Lincoln and show how diversified our local economy has become.
To all the new businesses in Lincoln, welcome. To our entire business community, we are grateful for your continued confidence in our community. Council and staff are always here to support you through the various phases of your business growth.
Advocacy & GR
New investors tell us they are confident in our community, knowing that there is always a return on investment when you do work in Lincoln. Part of this is due to our strong government relations program, which remains a top priority for the Town.
With the help of our ongoing advocacy and strong relationships with upper levels of government, we have been able to deliver valuable targeted programs across all key sectors in our economy to provide consistent support and funding for businesses.
In January, several Council members, Town staff and I attended the 2023 Rural Ontario Municipal Association Annual Conference. We participated in four delegations with provincial ministers and MPPs to discuss key priorities and programs to help realize the Town's vision of sustainable economic growth, supported by investments in infrastructure and other important community-focused projects.
Requests included support for our Youth Skills Studio, funding for the revisioning of our Rittenhouse Library in Vineland and increased funding for the Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre and for sports and recreation programs.
We are grateful for the investments in the Lincoln community received to date from both federal and provincial governments – approximately $60 million in the last term of Council! Let me explain to you what this means for Lincoln:
- All the funding we receive – every penny – is an investment in our community.
- It means accessible, inclusive public spaces, sooner. Leading to happier, healthier people.
- It means increased public safety and greener, cleaner spaces. Supporting the environment and mitigating the effects of climate change.
- It means more opportunities for children and youth to participate fully in society.
- It means supports for businesses to reach more customers and serve them better, strengthening our local economy.
$60 million means our community is prosperous, thriving and healthy. This is no mean feat.
And we cannot mention growth and development without addressing sustainability. The Town of Lincoln is taking steps to protect the natural environment through lakeshore protection measures, Electric Vehicle charging stations, the tree canopy research program and watering and mature tree stabilization system. The Town of Lincoln is committed to creating a sustainable future and to mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
Top of mind in creating a sustainable Lincoln is protecting agricultural space as one of our community’s greatest assets and resources.
Tourism and hospitality, supported by value-added agriculture, remain Lincoln’s greatest opportunity for economic growth and job creation.
We continue work on our Tourism Strategy and Action Plan to attract tourism investment, strengthen the local economy, and create jobs. Our new tourism and identity brand, Niagara Benchlands, brings the Town of Lincoln to life, by seeking inspiration from our unique culture, cuisine, technology, architecture, natural heritage and art.
The brand was adopted over a year ago and has made quite a splash with residents, local businesses, and visitors alike!
A key priority in 2023 is to redevelop our Destination Marketing Organization to support tourism marketing for the Niagara Benchlands and place the Benchlands on the world map as a premier destination. We will continue to work with our partners in St. Catharines and further develop our tourism partnership by forming this new DMO together, to capitalize on the natural synergies between our two destinations.
If we build it, will they come? Only if we shout from the rooftops about our one-of-a kind destination. That is why the development of the DMO is a crucial piece in this puzzle.
Another important goal this year is to update our wayfinding signage to further entrench the Benchlands brand and promote our local tourism destinations.
Again, this year, we will promote the $25,000 Niagara Benchlands Destination Development Fund which supports Lincoln’s tourism-based businesses and organizations. Launched in 2022, it boosted six projects, including festivals, visitor guides and garden tours. Eligible projects are new and expansion-driven projects, encouraging local tourism businesses to collaborate and foster innovation, and create tourism products and events that have a measurable impact on Lincoln’s tourism economy.
Tourism is not a nice-to-have in Lincoln. Tourism drives our local economy and through this continued investment, our economy will grow exponentially. Our local tourism industry is just budding, and we are sowing the seeds to promote a destination like no other. It is our responsibility as a municipality to give wings to this immense opportunity before us.
Supports for Businesses, Job Seekers, and Youth
For businesses in all sectors, having adequate high-speed internet access is integral to helping deliver products and services. To better understand needs and assess internet connectivity across the Town, we launched a public engagement process that included a survey for businesses and residents. Some of the key challenges we heard were: lack of rural broadband, slow internet speed and unequal speeds, depending on your location.
The Town is working with several Internet Service Providers to provide more choice for Lincoln consumers. This is vital to the success of local businesses and to meet the needs of every resident in Lincoln. We recently secured a historic $17 million investment in broadband service when Bell announced the expansion of pure fibre internet service to homes and businesses in the Town of Lincoln, which will bring all-fibre broadband access to approximately 7,000 more homes and businesses by 2024.
This is just the first announcement of several to come. Town staff played a key role by working closely with Bell and is continuing to do so with other internet service providers. We helped identify the need and expedited the permitting process in order for these companies to install the new infrastructure. These measures bring a world of difference, and it’s one way we pride ourselves on exceptional service delivery.
We also recognize the importance of digital innovation for business success. If you want to talk about impacts to small businesses, let me touch upon the success of the Digital Main Street program in Lincoln.
In August 2022, we secured a Digital Main Street grant of $93,000 to deliver the Digital Service Squad. This program helps local businesses enhance their online capabilities. This is our fourth consecutive Digital Service Squad since 2019. Last year, 44 local businesses received the $2,500 grant to grow their business online.
The Digital Service Squad has assisted businesses in Lincoln to:
- develop a Google My Business profile
- enhance their social media presence
- provide support for basic website and e-commerce set-up
- and apply for the Digital Transformation Grant, which includes an online assessment, online training modules and the development of a Digital Transformation Plan
To date, Lincoln’s businesses have received approximately $205,000 in support from the Digital Main Street initiative. When we talk about successful grant programs that demonstrate return on investment, this is what we mean.
We are prioritizing our youth and preparing them for a bright future here in Lincoln. They deserve this. And we – the local government – see the value in training and higher education to help them reach their career goals. At the same time, we recognize the benefits of retaining and attracting young talent for the local economy. This is crucial to the future of our community, and the Town has taken a significant leadership role in this regard. That’s what I call WIN-WIN for Lincoln.
Over the past two years, we have received $4.6 million from the Province of Ontario’s Skills Development Fund to operate the Youth Skills Studio in Beamsville, in partnership with Civiconnect. What a great partnership this has proven to be.
The program has helped more than 350 youth prepare for the workforce and provided local employers with affordable access to talent and resources to help grow their businesses. The number of participants has tripled in the last year. I’d say the program has been an unmitigated success! We are recognizing needs and meeting demands.
Our efforts don’t end there. Our new Work in Lincoln program, in partnership with the Employment Help Centre, is one more way we are working to retain local talent and help fill the labour shortage.
Staff applied for and received a $58,000 Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Rural Economic Development Grant for the development of the program, along with $10,000 from Niagara Region’s Economic Development team.
Both Council and Staff were overwhelmed by the positive response to our first job fair, held earlier this month. The numbers paint a picture, with 450 job seekers and 40 employers in attendance. But the comments we heard from many tell the story of appreciation. Excitement. Optimism.
We saw people arrive unsure, perhaps anxious, and leaving with hope and positivity. We know we are doing the right thing at the right time, and we are seeing these efforts bear fruit. Look for our next job fair coming this Fall. Yes, there is a part 2 to this. Stay tuned.
The project also includes the development of workinlincoln.ca for employers to submit job postings and job seekers to apply.
We have heard from many of our local businesses about the difficulties in finding adequate staff to support their operations. This initiative will help businesses connect with seasonal and permanent staff to help solve the labour shortage that many of our businesses are experiencing.
These programs are just some of the actions moving forward the Town's Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan: Lincoln’s Pathway to Prosperity 2019-2023. The strategy focuses on business retention and expansion, innovation, new investment and workforce development.
Staff will be refreshing this strategy this year to bring forward a new 5-Year Plan that follows up on the foundation we have set and reflects on our current business climate and community needs.
Partnerships and Shared Services
So far today I’ve touched upon investing in our community assets, creating healthy and vibrant public spaces, and planning for a prosperous future.
Another key to success is recognizing the value of partnerships and collaboration. Lincoln acts on this in many ways, including funding agreements to support businesses and community projects, as well as collaboration among public, private, and not-for-profit sectors. Some of these are with our business community and organizations such as Civiconnect and Brock University.
Shared services among governments is a significant priority strategy in 2023. I’m sure most of you are aware of the recent announcement by Chair Bradley regarding the Office of Share Service. Lincoln has been a trailblazer in Niagara for forging partnerships and exploring the shared service model. We recently completed our merger with Pelham Public Library to create the Lincoln Pelham Public Library, which creates efficiencies, allows staff to focus on their areas of expertise and improves our collection, while maintaining access for all residents. Our Shared Fire service pilot with Grimsby has been in place for 18 months and is working towards similar outcomes, as well as helping preserve the volunteer fire service model both municipalities currently employ.
We will explore further opportunities to partner with other agencies, as we look for ways to improve program and service delivery. In Lincoln, we are setting the gold standard for efficient and effective government.
In fact, this year’s budget approval was accompanied by a motion to further explore and create more shared services with other municipalities in Niagara, to allow us to find efficiencies while leading the way in service delivery.
I thank Council members and staff for their collaborative effort in approving the 2023 Budget. I firmly believe that this budget represents a balance of making prudent financial decisions to minimize the burden on the taxpayer and invest in community priorities.
The budget included close to $50 million for capital projects in the areas of transportation, safety and environment, social infrastructure, and corporate initiatives.
This is a higher investment than we may have seen in recent years, and I understand that this may cause confusion and perhaps even disbelief to some. Let me assure you that this is not an expense. It is an investment. An investment in the future of our community. In addition, that $50 million includes the spending of development charges which are not paid for by taxpayers, rather it is money paid for by development to cover the cost of growth.
Being a welcoming, engaging, vibrant and resilient community is supported by investment. When we approve a budget, we are supporting these goals.
Investing in capital projects yields results in our community – both tangible and intangible. We see more vibrant downtowns. Safer neighbourhoods. More inclusive and engaging public spaces. State of the art healthcare coming to west Niagara.
These are the needs we are addressing and will continue to address, to ensure everyone has a voice and no one is left behind.
We do need to keep in mind that municipalities are subject to the same inflationary pressures as everyone else – business and homeowners. But some look at budgets in terms of spending. Let’s not forget revenues. $60 million in grant funding in the last term of Council. I mentioned this figure a few moments ago, but it is worth mentioning again. We see revenues in development charges that fund a significant portion of these capital projects. We will look to the province to make communities whole after Bill 23 and believe me, Lincoln has a voice in this conversation and will continue to do so.
As I said earlier, with opportunities come challenges — and we are equipped to confront them. Governments must maintain service levels despite financial resource constraints and increasingly severe natural disasters and aging infrastructure. I think this is a fundamental challenge. Not just in 2023 but also beyond.
As citizens have become more engaged with their local governments, public agencies have had to balance community demands with resource constraints and essential service provision. We meet these challenges by holding at the forefront what the entire community wants and what is best for the collective Lincoln population. We are here to listen and engage with the community and welcome the opportunity for open and honest dialogue.
Thank you so much for engaging in conversation today. There are so many exciting things happening in Lincoln. As your local government, we have a part in this story, but the future of Lincoln is yours to shape and mold. Looking forward, common values of collaboration, innovation, resilience, and purpose will lead us to a bright and prosperous future for Lincoln.
Good afternoon everyone. It is so wonderful to be gathering in person. We have confronted many challenges over the last two years and together, we still face many challenges. But being here today and seeing everyone in the room fills me with optimism for the coming year, and the belief that we can emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever – together.
This is the last State of the Town address before October’s municipal election, and so no matter what happens, the next Council will probably look a bit different than it does today. I would like to take a moment to thank my Council colleagues for their hard work and commitment over the past four years. In 2018, Council developed a set of priorities to support Lincoln's vision of being a Welcoming, Connected, Vibrant and Resilient community and together with Town staff, we have achieved many of these focused priorities.
And we are not done yet. I see 2022 as a springboard for even greater things to come – helping build on Lincoln’s economic and social advantage. We will build on our initiatives and achievements of 2021 to continue to meet the changing needs of our growing community.
As I mentioned, one of our priorities is to be a welcoming community that is open to fresh ideas and multiple perspectives, where residents and businesses participate fully in social, cultural and economic life. As part of this goal, we are creating welcoming and meaningful community spaces for all through investments in parks, culture and open spaces.
In 2021, this included the opening of Rotary Park. Lincoln’s second destination park, Rotary Park features access to walking trails, sports amenities, a concrete skatepark and asphalt pump track, an accessible play area, fitness equipment and a butterfly garden. This project, which was made possible through funding from the Town, the Rotary Club of Lincoln and private donations, is an example of how when we work together, amazing things can happen. The official ribbon-cutting for the park is planned for June 4 and I can’t wait to celebrate with the community.
Angelina Macri Prokich Park is our first developer-built neighbourhood park and was developed by Losani Homes as part of the Vista Ridge development. The Prokich family generously donated a portion of this parkland to the Town and the park is being dedicated in remembrance of Mrs. Prokich for her commitment to and love of Lincoln. I am looking forward to seeing children and families enjoying these outdoor community spaces again over the spring and summer.
In 2022, Lincoln is making continued investments throughout the town to create new parks and to improve our existing parks and open spaces. Construction is expected to begin soon on our second developer-built park at Cherry Heights Park in central Beamsville. This will be a more passive park including interpretative signage, pathways, landscaping, a shade structure and a small, naturalized playground. Visitors will be encouraged to use their imaginations while learning more about the cultural significance of the site. We will continue to work collaboratively with the Indigenous community to share the history of the site and those who first inhabited it.
Also in partnership with Indigenous and environmental stakeholders, the Town is leading the development of a park enhancement plan for Jordan Hollow Park. This site has an important and rich cultural history related to Indigenous inhabitation of the land, and in particular to an Iroquoian-speaking confederation of tribes known as the Neutral Nation who lived in the vicinity around 1600. The project is in the preliminary concept design stage and will include new trees and plantings, lawn areas, paved pathways, site furnishings, art and interpretive elements.
The Town is also working to improve indoor spaces that provide opportunities for learning, reflection and connection.
Last October, we celebrated the much-anticipated grand opening of the Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre: Home of the Jordan Historical Museum of the Twenty. The facility, located in the heart of Jordan Village, has been designed to address the Museum’s needs for collections storage, exhibits and programming. The Museum was funded by both public and private donors and included contributions from the Jordan Historical Museum of the Twenty Volunteer Association, The Government of Canada, The Region of Niagara and private individual donors and businesses. Be sure to visit the museum to see its collections and special exhibits and check the calendar for upcoming events.
In Vineland, plans are underway on a “Rittenhouse Reimagined” project, which will include renovations and an addition to the existing library branch. The upgraded facility will offer a community space, an improved area for storing archives and increased accessibility, and is anticipated for construction in 2024. A small greenhouse and a gazebo have already been added to the site.
One significant way we are providing for a more connected community is by increasing opportunities for community involvement and engagement.
Speak Up Lincoln is our online engagement platform – and provides a place where community members can get updates on important Town of Lincoln projects and initiatives and engage in dialogue with the Town. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done collectively to create this space for residents and business owners to learn more about our priorities in Lincoln, and to have their say and truly be heard. Since we launched Speak Up Lincoln last year, the site has welcomed close to 12,000 visitors, and more than 1,000 community members have filled out surveys, shared information or asked questions about one of our many projects. Be sure to check it out and have your say. We want to hear from you!
Council-appointed committees are another way residents can get involved, by volunteering their time and expertise and providing recommendations on matters that affect the entire community. Committees include active transportation, heritage, housing and homelessness and the public library board.
Lincoln continues to be a vibrant community and we aim to ensure it is a happy, healthy, prosperous place to live and work. Given our roots in agricultural excellence, we celebrate our history but we are emboldened with a creative spirit that embraces the future. We strive to lead forward to create vibrant spaces and neighbourhoods for everyone to thrive and enjoy.
This future focus drives the planning and execution of our major projects. One example is the Town’s plan to purchase the surplus property that houses the current Beamsville District Secondary School from the District School Board of Niagara. Discussions between the DSBN and the Town of Lincoln are ongoing regarding the future potential for the site.
- I see that Stacy Veld from the DSBN is here today – welcome Stacy. We are looking forward to ongoing collaboration with you and your colleagues.
- Also here today from BDSS are Principal Mat Miller and Student Council Member _____ - we’re really looking forward to seeing the new West Niagara Secondary School and I’m sure you are too!
The two organizations will work together with the Lincoln community and stakeholders to review potential plans. The site offers many opportunities to benefit the community through the development of a community hub, for instance, thanks to its location and rich history. Public engagement will be an important component of this project, and we look forward to hearing from the community about your thoughts about the future of this site.
I’m most pleased that construction will be starting soon on the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital Redevelopment. Town Council has been advocating for a new, rebuilt hospital for some time, and our partnership with Hamilton Health Sciences on this project has been very positive throughout. I truly believe it is a necessary investment that will serve the needs of local area residents. A public fundraising campaign is also underway – this a great opportunity to invest in the future health and well-being of all of west Niagara so be sure to find out more through the hospital foundation’s website.
Ground was broken earlier this month on our transformational Jordan Village Improvement Project. We are excited to see this project take shape to fulfill the vision for Jordan Village to become an even more vibrant and connected part of the community. Some of its key features will include a pedestrian square at Main and King streets, design of a plaza and monument, decorative crosswalks, plantings and pedestrian/cyclist facilities. Also key to this project are the increased safety features, notably the installation of traffic lights at King Street and Nineteenth Street to eliminate the five-point intersection. We continue to work closely with local businesses in the area to ensure their needs are met and they are kept up-to-date throughout construction. Thank you to all the businesses and local residents for your patience during construction. The end result will undoubtedly be well worth the wait to see Jordan Village transformed to a community hub and a premier tourist destination.
Another transformational project will be the redevelopment of Downtown Vineland and the King Street/Victoria Avenue corridor, which aligns with Council’s goal of creating vibrant urban areas and downtowns. The Town will work with Niagara Region to move forward with an Urban Design Vision and Master Plan starting in 2022 for downtown Vineland. It will establish a guiding vision for beautification and potential growth along the downtown portion of King Street and the Victoria Avenue Corridor.
When Council set resilience as one of our priorities in 2018, we could have never imagined how much we would need to lean on and cultivate this attribute. Over the past two years, I have been constantly amazed by the strength of our Council, Town staff, residents and businesses and our ability to face extraordinary challenges with determination, compassion and creativity.
While the COVID-19 pandemic bestowed unprecedented public health and financial hardships, the Town of Lincoln’s business community has demonstrated extreme resilience and shows promise of growth and economic prosperity into the future. I would like to thank staff for all of the impactful programs, projects and initiatives implemented throughout 2021 to ensure our businesses were able to operate efficiently and safely, while following all public health guidelines. More importantly, I would like to recognize all the businesses that continue to be adaptable as we travel along the path of economic recovery.
With the help of our ongoing advocacy and strong relationships with upper levels of government, Economic Development staff have been able to deliver valuable targeted programs across all key sectors in our economy.
In January, I participated in eight delegations at the 2022 Rural Ontario Municipal Association Annual Virtual Conference in cooperation with several of my Council colleagues and Town staff. We met with provincial ministers and MPPs to discuss key priorities and programs to help realize the Town's vision of sustainable economic growth, supported by investments in infrastructure and other important community-focused projects.
This delegation has already led to confirmed funding for the Senior and Active Living Centre and an additional $2.5 in funding for skills training through our Youth Skills Studio which was announced last week. We also advocated for funding for the Niagara Escarpment Crossing to reduce commercial vehicle traffic and continued assistance for our craft beverage industry by urging the Province to eliminate the 6.1% tax applied to VQA wines.
- I know I saw Debbie Zimmerman from Grape Growers of Ontario earlier – Hi Debbie, great to see you here today and thank you for all the great work your organization does to represent our local grape growers.
Within the past year, we have seen the fruits of our advocacy efforts. For example, in December, the Government of Ontario announced it would freeze the basic beer tax rate alongside cutting LCBO wholesale prices for bars and restaurants. This was a result of our multiple delegations with upper levels of government seeking support for our craft beverage and restaurant sector.
- A shout out today to Matt Giffen from Bench Brewing who is also here today – thanks Matt for joining us. What a draw Bench Brewing has become for many within and outside of Lincoln.
In 2021, many of Lincoln’s long-term economic goals were implemented in tandem with short-term initiatives designed to support our existing business community throughout the remainder of the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, Lincoln created two key strategies to stimulate socioeconomic growth. Our Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan serves as a roadmap for Lincoln’s economic development activities that aim to promote an “Open for Business” message, attract and retain business and foster innovation and entrepreneurship. In June 2020, Council adopted our Tourism Strategy and Action Plan in recognition of the importance of the tourism industry to the overall health of the local economy. Its main objectives include attracting new tourism investment, strengthening and growing the local economy and creating more jobs, as well as developing a new tourism brand for the municipality. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we continue to move forward on these strategies and recognize they have become even more important to the growth and prosperity of the local economy.
We are also excited to move ahead with Lincoln’s new tourism and identity brand, Niagara Benchlands which was unanimously endorsed by Council last October. This brand aims to build an identity for Lincoln that stands out from other competitive destinations and communicate its benefits and strengths to potential investors, visitors and residents. It will create a unified voice and vision for the Lincoln-centered destination and bring the Town of Lincoln to life, by seeking inspiration from our unique culture, cuisine, technology, architecture, heritage and art.
Last year, through our partnership with other local area municipalities, we also secured an investment from the federal government to support adaptation and recovery for Lincoln tourism businesses. Economic Development staff worked with 41 Lincoln businesses, including wineries, restaurants, retail and accommodations, to advocate for and secure more than $500,000 toward COVID adaptations, such as patio enhancements, PPE and signage.
To help our local tourism sector prepare for what lies ahead, the Town has also created a $25,000 Niagara Benchlands Destination Development Fund. This fund will support new and expansion-driven projects, encouraging local tourism businesses to collaborate and foster innovation and create tourism products and events to benefit Lincoln’s tourism economy.
For many of our businesses in all sectors, having adequate high-speed internet access has helped them deliver products and services to our residents and visitors during the pandemic. To assess internet connectivity across the Town, staff launched our broadband survey to gather input from businesses and residents. The key challenges we found included lack of rural broadband, slow internet speed and unequal speeds, depending on location. The Town has asked the provincial government for targeted broadband investment for homes and businesses across the municipality. Economic development staff will continue to coordinate with public and private stakeholders to bridge the digital divide and help our businesses adapt and recover from the pandemic.
Recognizing the importance of digital innovation for business success, the Town is also continuing its work with Digital Main Street. In August 2021, the Town of Lincoln received $23,000 from Digital Main Street Ontario for our third consecutive Digital Service Squad since 2019.
The squad has assisted Lincoln businesses with several activities, including developing a Google My Business profile, enhancing their social media presence and providing support for basic website and e-commerce set-up. Thirty-eight local businesses each received a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant to use toward digital upgrades of their choice.
The Town also recognizes the importance of helping our youth reach their career goals and the benefits of retaining and attracting young talent. The Town received more than $2 million from the province’s Skills Development Fund to develop and deploy the Youth Skills Studio in Beamsville – and as mentioned earlier, another $2.5 million investment has recently been announced. A partnership between Civiconnect and the Town of Lincoln, the program is helping youth prepare for the workforce and providing local employers with affordable access to talent and resources to help grow their businesses. So far, 132 participants were hired and the program delivered 100 projects to local businesses.
- I’m pleased to see a group of delegates here today from Civiconnect, who are administering the Youth Skills Studio. What a pleasure it’s been to work with Civiconnect – you’ve done a tremendous job running this program to support our youth and local businesses. What a great partnership.
Promoting an “Open for Business” message and attracting new investment continues to be crucial for economic development in the Town of Lincoln. Although COVID-19 restrictions once again posed many difficulties across all industries, the Town still saw more than $164 million of private sector investment in 2021, exceeding the 10-year average. More specifically, the Town saw significant building activity spikes in agriculture, industrial, commercial and institutional building permits. Altogether, building permits for businesses in the community increased by 1202% from 2020 to 2021.
Business retention and expansion is also a key priority. It is said that approximately 70 to 80% of new jobs are generated from existing businesses. However, in Lincoln, this number is closer to 90%, which is why our top priority continues to be collaboration with the Lincoln business community. It is also why it is so exciting to see our businesses prospering and growing. In 2021, many of our businesses invested and expanded, for example Vineland Growers is building a new facility, Ophardt Hygiene is building an addition and Bench Brewing is adding a banquet facility.
- I believe Mike Ecker is here today as well; thanks for making it out today and for your continued commitment to excellence.
We are also so pleased to welcome new businesses, such as Newark Brewing Company and Outdoor Travel.
- I do have a message to share from Ken Whiting at Outdoor Travel. He sends his regrets for today as things are quite busy in the shop this week with a grand opening sale starting Friday (so be sure to check them out!) He says:
“We are BIG fans, we love Beamsville. Congratulations to the Mayor, Councillors, and entire Lincoln staff, I’m proud to be associated with such a motivated, understanding, helpful, supportive group! We are so happy to have landed in Beamsville and that starts from the top down!”
And I would not want to end my remarks today without mentioning how important environmental sustainability is. The Town of Lincoln is committed to preparing for, responding to, and moving towards a more sustainable future.
Last spring, Council approved the Corporate Climate Change Plan and passed a motion to declare a climate crisis in Lincoln. Council recognizes the urgent need to take action to mitigate the effects of climate change and to deepen the Town’s commitment to protecting Lincoln’s economy, ecosystems and community from climate change.
Many of you are also aware of my participation in the Cities Initiative’s Mayors Advisory Council on Coastal Resilience. I’m so pleased to work with the mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence river on both sides of the border, on a plan to mitigate damage to shorelines caused by erosion, flooding and other impacts from high lake levels and climate change.
A number of strategies and actions are in development, including Corporate and Community Single-Use Plastics Reduction Strategies and Low-Carbon Resilience Plan looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.
- Of course, many of these initiatives align with the important work happening at Vineland Research. I’m so pleased to see Dr Ian Potter here – thank you for taking the time to attend today’s event.
Thank you so much for your attention and interest today. I have just scratched the surface of Lincoln’s exciting accomplishments, projects and initiatives. There are great things happening in Lincoln and I am excited to see what comes next. We are grounded in our history and our natural heritage as we welcome newcomers and new opportunities to our growing community. I am looking forward with a sense of renewal and hope to the future, as we build on our collective vision of being a Place to Grow, a Place to Prosper and a Place to Belong.