Niagara Falls mayor tight-lipped about Romania
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati
Mayor Jim Diodati is keeping tight-lipped about why Romanian developers might be interested in Niagara Falls.
“I just don’t want to give that away yet. They asked us specifically (for confidentiality at this stage),” he said.
“They’re already successful businesspeople in Romania. They’re global investors. They have different businesses in different places around the world, mostly in Europe.”
Diodati quietly travelled to Romania, with chief administrative officer Ken Todd and director of business development Serge Felicetti, on Thanksgiving Monday for a three-day business trip to learn more about a potential development opportunity for the city.
Diodati said the proponents paid for the trip, and no public money was involved in the visit.
“This would mean an awful lot of jobs in Niagara Falls — both in construction and in employment,” he said.
“We went, we kicked the tires, we saw their operation functioning, and we were very impressed and we would love, very much, if they would consider expanding into Niagara Falls.”
Diodati said the proponents are considering a number of cities across North America where they might locate their business. They invited municipal leaders from those communities to visit Romania to “see what it is that they do and how it is that they do it.
“I don’t want to divulge which cities, but … we know we’re in competition with a number of other jurisdictions, not just in Canada and not just in Ontario,” he said.
“We had a number of business meetings around how something like this might work, what they would require in terms of land, and in terms of different expertise in construction.
“They’ve got a lot of unique pieces to what they do, and they’ve invented some very unique processes as well, so they require a number of things.”
Diodati said he, Todd and Felicetti filled the proponents in on the local labour force, market and economy, “tell them about the political situation, definitely demonstrate that we’re open for business, and we’re very interested in them coming and setting up in Niagara Falls.”
Diodati said his office received an e-mail, in broken English, in early September about the opportunity.
“I get an awful lot of unsolicited proposals for all sorts of things, and we always have to sift through what’s real and what’s not,” he said.
“I never want to take a chance at missing an opportunity for the city, so typically I forward them to our economic development office and I ask them to do some diligence on the request, and that’s exactly what we did.
“It was determined this is legitimate, this is a real group, and they’re certainly doing their diligence.”
Diodati said he had a meeting with the group, and “that’s how we got the ball rolling.
“They came to us, but as I say, they’re travelling throughout North America looking at different municipalities.”
While some councillors who had talked to Diodati heard that he was going to Romania, some did not know until the mayor’s office sent out an e-mail last week while Diodati, Todd and Felicetti were already there.
Coun. Carolynn Ioannoni said she was given “absolutely no information” about the trip.
She said Diodati has not responded to several of her questions about the trip, which Ioannoni said has become the norm for the mayor and CAO in their dealings with her.
Ioannoni said Diodati has a clique on council who he might talk to about certain city business, but the veteran councillor is not one of them.
“This city is supposed to be run by nine of us, and it is not being run by nine of us. There is no team at city council. We have ceased to be a team a long time ago.
“I’m not disappointed, I’m not surprised, I’m not upset. This is what I expect from here on out. I don’t expect any different. Nothing’s changed, it doesn’t matter how many times we ask for information.”
Ioannoni has been critical of the way Diodati and senior staff have communicated past foreign city business trips.
She also believes the city misled council on its proposed partnership with Ryerson University to try to bring a post-secondary presence to downtown Niagara Falls.
Diodati said he did not have an opportunity to tell council, as a whole, about the trip because he didn’t attend the September council meeting as he was away on vacation.
At that meeting, council appointed Coun. Vince Kerrio acting mayor during Diodati’s absence.
Ioannoni also didn’t attend the September meeting, as she was on a mission trip to Africa.
“It’s not about secrecy, it’s about confidentiality,” said Diodati.
“When I get approached by an employee of the city, when I get approached by a resident of Niagara Falls, or if I get approached by a businessperson seeking confidentiality before we speak … if you don’t grant them, you don’t get to the next step.
“Council understands this. No decisions were made. No special treatment is given. This is simply fact finding, doing our diligence, and if this is to proceed to the next step, council and council alone will make all the decisions.
“As this moves forward, if it moves forward, if we’re fortunate enough to keep them interested, council is going to hear about all of the information before any decision (is made).”
Diodati said he will brief councillors about his trip during next Tuesday’s meeting.