The city's finance and administration committee agreed to spend up to $35,000 to study the possibility of bringing a World Trade Centre to Greater Sudbury.
Meeting on Tuesday evening, the committee heard from World Trade Center Greater Sudbury (WTCGS) members, former mayor Marianne Matichuk and 2018 mayoral candidate Cody Cacciotti, who were requesting a $10-million contribution from the municipality to bring what Matichuk called "a game-changer" to the city.
Funding requests also include $10 million in provincial support and $20 million from the federal government.
The World Trade Center Greater Sudbury proposes to serve local entrepreneurs and connect them with international businesses seeking trade, education and expertise in mining, technology and health sciences. These services would be provided on a fee-for-service basis to its members.
Matichuk and Cacciotti were joined at Tom Davies Square on Tuesday by Martin Salloum, regional development manager with the World Trade Centre Association, who gave a brief history and overview of what World Trade Centres represent and what their benefits are.
"50 years ago this year was the beginning of the World Trade Centre Association, but 75 years ago in New Orleans, the Mississippi Port Authority decided they wanted to erect an office tower on the banks of the river and decided to target market an industry cluster and they chose international trade," said Salloum.
"They went out and solicited tenants involved in importing and exporting, freight forwarding, brokerage, real estate, anybody that was involved in international trade, and they filled the building with those tenants with the idea that if they networked together they could do business together."
The concept would be much the same for the Nickel City in that the World Trade Center Greater Sudbury, like other World Trade Centers, would concentrate the city’s international business expertise and resources to create a “critical mass” required to attract global companies and fuel economic growth in the community, noting a much higher potential to attract international trade missions through the World Trade Center network.
"Cities with a World Trade Centre often boast a higher workforce participation level of 1.5-per-cent higher compared to the national average," said Cacciotti. "Should Greater Sudbury take advantage of the opportunity to join the World Trade Centre network they're gaining access to an established trade network that has over 750,000 members worldwide."
There are already World Trade Centres in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver, as well as in dozens of cities across the planet.
The World Trade Center Greater Sudbury was originally envisioned as an independent entity in the City of Greater Sudbury’s downtown core. The initial cost projections placed the construction of the entity at $55 - 65 million and the design encompassed an integrated parking structure and potential hotel.
Through preliminary discussions with the city of Greater Sudbury, it was found that there is a mutual benefit to exploring a joint build where the World Trade Center Greater Sudbury could be co-located with the city of Greater Sudbury’s proposed conference center as part of the Junction West.
A collaborative build could result in a substantial reduction in the cost of the WTCGS through the design of shared space and site amenities.
The World Trade Center Greater Sudbury is requesting a contribution of $10 million from the city of Greater Sudbury spread out over ten years ($1 million per year over 10 years). The contribution from the city would be used to leverage support from upper levels of government.
The World Trade Center Greater Sudbury has agreed to pay property taxes, which is reflected in its financial statements. The property tax on the proposed building is estimated between $750,000 - $1.5 million depending on the MPAC report. Estimating a $1 million tax payment, the city of Greater Sudbury would recoup its initial contribution by 2033.
Job creation was one of the factors highlighted by Matichuk and Cacciotti during their presentation, indicating that there could be up to 20 new employment opportunities at the WTCGS, along with 160 construction jobs related to building the facility, as per estimates from the Northern Ontario Construction Association.
The building itself was a sticking point for a few councilliors, including ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan.
"The World Trade Centre seems to be a concept that it has networking across the world that is allowing local businesses the opportunity to expand their international trade, I'm having trouble seeing why a building is necessary," said Kirwan.
"Most of the local businesses that are on your list of support wouldn't need a head office in downtown Sudbury, they have head offices in industrial parks or wherever they're located right now and they would be partners with WTCGS and could reap the benefits of the marketing and networking and connections without having rental space in an iconic building that's going to cost $55 million."
Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland had some concerns of his own, expressing his skepticism as to whether a physical World Trade Centre building was necessary.
"You say that the plan is to start building the capacity of the local organization during 2020, with the rental of a storefront downtown," said McCausland. "The local proponent is able to access the whole network and resources before the building is completed. If that's the case, how much of this is actually reliant on the physical space?"
Matichuk explained that the marketing aspect of an iconic building and the World Trade Centre branding was a difference maker.
"The World Trade Centre Association is asking people to build an iconic building, so people know that's the World Trade Centre and that's what it's all about," said Matichuk. "As far as the real estate aspect, we're only going to have the office until we have the capacity to build the building."
The committee ultimately accepted Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier's motion that up to $35,000 be spent studying the idea.
"We've had different projects come forward and looked great at first blush, time goes on and some hurdles are discovered and from that point on we decided as a group when we're dealing with projects of this magnitude involving requests of this type of funding that the due dilligence would be done," said Cormier.
"(Commercial real estate firm) CBRE is specifically referenced in the motion at the advice of staff, and because CBRE was the principal that led the discussion on what is now called the Junction West project, it makes sense in my view for them to pick this up and look at how it could potentially fit with that project."