We could have put that information to very good use


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With the imminent departure of CEO Bob Wheeler, is it time for a new direction over at St. Thomas Economic Development Corp?
After 14 years at the helm, the question of a replacement for Wheeler offers intriguing possibilities.
What better person to approach than EDC board president, Dennis Broome, whom we talked to Thursday.
“We’ve struck a committee to look at what we’re going to do,” Dennis informs. “And, we’ll make recommendations. That will happen in November. The upside is we have some pretty competent people there already in Sean (Dyke) and Cindy (Hastings), who’ve been there for a long time and know the ropes. For Sean that’s almost a natural progression. He is a very capable young man.”
A compelling case to bring this bright, young gun to the forefront.
Be it known, this corner has, in the past, leaned in the direction of former MPP Steve Peters with his stuffed Rolodex of contacts.
However, an outside hire may not be in the cards for the EDC.
“My thought is that for going forward right now, there won’t be a replacement,” advises Dennis. “That’s open to the board changing their mind. We’re happy the way things are going.”
Would it be premature, then, to offer congratulations to Sean?
But, let’s backtrack. Why would Wheeler abandon a six-figure salary at this particular point in time or was he not offered a new contract?
“Bob was going to retire three or four years ago,” Dennis explains. “And the contract was extended twice to him. It was time for him to retire. So, that’s what he’s going to do.”
A complaint in the past, from a media perspective, has been the lack of on-going data in a workable format from which we could paint a true picture of the employment situation in St. Thomas.
“One thing people don’t realize – and we probably are remiss in our non-issue of information – is if you take it from when Sterling Trucks left St. Thomas, and take it from that day forward, we’ve actually had a plus-jobs creation in the city in the last three years of almost 800 jobs.”
These include new jobs or hire-backs at Masco, Format, Presstran, London Castings, C.D.C. Warehouse Inc. and Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Dennis points out.
We will pursue this job creation figure in greater depth this week in the Times-Journal, and we appreciate the honesty of Dennis when he concedes the EDC may not always have made available information that would help us portray an accurate jobs picture in St. Thomas.
To counter one critic, we are indeed on the hunt for good news.

BEEN HERE BEFORE
It’s mid-September, 2003, and Ald. Gord Campbell has just met with St. Thomas police Chief Bill Lynch to discuss “a serious breach of etiquette” at city hall, to determine if there was enough evidence to warrant an investigation.
Campbell told the Times-Journal at the time he had concerns about “a serious breach of etiquette involving the public works community that has never been resolved.”
The matter at hand involved alleged harassing behaviour that had “demoralized” some members of city hall staff.
We reference this dark chapter only because it has come to the attention of City Scope we should now be asking questions in the environmental services department at city hall about complaints of harassment.
And, we will.
Is this an indication the toxic environment of nine years ago has oozed to the surface again, albeit down a different corridor?

POINT TO PONDER
Was the decision to hire Ron Osborne as the new Ascent CEO – replacing the retired Brian Hollywood – unanimously approved by the Ascent board of directors?
Our request to speak with board chairman Jim Herbert has yet to yield a response.

NOW LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE
We briefly alluded to Jason McComb last week in this corner. He’s the guy trying to draw attention to Canada’s homeless through his website.
Well, it seems Jason camped out for a spell on the steps of city hall Monday and then attempted to introduce himself to Mayor Heather Jackson.
Hearing who was in the office, she promptly dialed 9-1-1 and four of the city’s finest convinced a bewildered Jason to exit city hall.
Jason tells us he even put on the best of his clothes in order to present the mayor with one of his posters. No ulterior motives whatsoever.
Which prompted the following observation from a member of the DDB board of directors.
“When incidents like this occur I’m concerned. He is a DDB member and local merchant. He pays rent at a storefront on Talbot Street. He has rights! What a shameful situation.”
Maybe if the mayor closes her eyes, Jason and others of the homeless ilk will just disappear.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The scandal-plagued Liberals have put the government on autopilot with the doors shut and the lights off leaving their reckless spending to go unchecked with no plan to kick-start private sector job creation.”
Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek as he stood on the doorstep of health minister Deb Matthews Friday in London to encourage the Liberal party to end prorogation of the legislature.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca

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