The town has scored a huge victory in securing a 10-year extension for its Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) program.
Yesterday, Mayor Jeff Genung and Municipal Affairs minister Rebecca Schultz confirmed the extension has been granted and will continue to provide funding for infrastructure improvements in what's commonly referred to as The Quarry.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Cochrane became the first municipality outside of Calgary and Edmonton to tap into the program that has successfully converted contaminated brownfields into a thriving commercial district.
Genung referred to Cochrane as the poster child for the program and that was reconfirmed by Minister Schultz moments later.
"It's the most successful of any of these projects in Alberta, and is creating greater prosperity for our province," says Schultz.
The CRL program allows the town to place a levy against any incremental assessment growth on properties within the designated area. Revenue generated by the levy is restricted to use for public infrastructure, servicing, and other costs associated with the revitalization of the district.
The levy has played a major role in taking 45 acres of land generating only $6,000 in taxes back in 2019 to $1 million today. It is now assessed at $140 million, an astounding 2,638 per cent increase in value.
It also paved the way for Garmin Canada Inc. to make Cochrane its headquarters and allowed for the creation of another 200 jobs in the district.
"This is a phenomenal success, and Garmin wouldn't be where it is today without that program," says Genung. "With the investment from Springwood, the attention from the town in wanting to attract a developer that was willing to clean up a brownfield site, and then federal grants way back in the day that helped assist with the clean up, and then the CRL on top of that and our vision, the way we are building out our community, it is all just sort of pulling and going in the same direction."
Behind the scenes, Mayor Genung held several meetings with Schultz to ensure the extension was granted.
The levy generates about $1 million annually to reinvest in the district's infrastructure and that is expected to rise to $1.3 million in the future.
It was used in the past to purchase the land for The Station at Cochrane Crossing, the parking lot next to the public library, and other necessary infrastructure to facilitate future growth.
Immediate needs include a parking structure in the Quarry to accommodate parking for Garmin's growing workforce and others working in and frequenting The Quarry.
In 2010, prior to the CRL designation, the town reached an agreement with Springwood Developments Inc. to rehabilitate the land, which was once used to preserve rail ties and other wood products.
The town wasn't far off in its estimates that the land would have a market value of more than $100 million in five to 10 years with tax revenue expected to climb from $6,000 to $1.1 million. The assessed value of the district has now reached $140 million and has provided the town with a 2,638 per cent increase in assessment growth.
Peter Guthrie, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA and Alberta Energy minister, pointed to the importance of the revitalization levy to Cochrane during the Garmin expansion announcement yesterday.
It has had a tremendous impact here in Cochrane, to boost investment and create jobs," says Guthrie. "I'm encouraged to see such great work being done in our community."
Truper McBride was mayor of Cochrane through the formative years of creating the Quarry and securing the levy.
Municipal Affairs relaunched the CRL program last summer. Now, several other communities, including Airdrie, have expressed interest in utilizing the program.