Kim Burden, Executive Director Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce presented to Parksville City Council.
Thank you for the opportunity to present the Chamber’s perspective on economic development. When we talk about economic development, we are really talking about community development. We are talking about the managed growth of our economy through business attraction, expansion and retention. We want to grow jobs and by growing jobs improve the economy of the region for the benefit of residents who want to work here and residents who want to relax here and have the services and goods they need locally.
Our current economy is sound with a great deal of room for improvement.
The Chamber recently completed a Labour Needs Assessment. There is a current labour shortage in all sectors at all levels. There is a housing shortage making it difficult for workers wanting to work here being able to also live here. There is a transportation challenge through the high cost of operating private transportation and the lack of public transportation in outlying region where the cost of housing is cheaper. There is a need to improve local skills training therefore before we look to attract any new enterprise which will require a significant number of employees, we need to address these challenges and our primary goals should focus on growing existing businesses to increase the work force slowly while we deal with transportation, housing and local skills development.
The Chamber recognizes the significant number of housing projects; particularly the multi-family housing projects as a positive step forward. The increase in housing development will eventually address affordability of housing and will allow people to live in the community they work in and support the businesses they work at by being able to shop locally.
Parksville and the surrounding community continue to be a sought-after destination for retirees. The work force grew between the last two census counts. In 2011 40% of the population was engaged in the workforce and in 2016 that had grown to 46%. Still a long way off the provincial average of 70%. While retirees contribute to the economic wellbeing of the region they do so at a lower level than young families. They do not tend to make major purchases and many of them spend more time away, particularly those who live away for up to 6 months. Our goal of community development/economic development needs to be “Increasing the average wage and decreasing the average age.
The Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce has been promoting the concept of regional economic development since 2011 when the coalition called Oceanside Initiatives was formed. The coalition or partnership consisted of representation from the Town of Qualicum Beach, the City of Parksville, the Regional District of Nanaimo, The Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce, The Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce, the Parksville – Qualicum Beach Tourism Association, The Parksville Downtown Business Association, Vancouver Island University and School District 69. In 2014 the Qualicum First Nation and the Nanoose First Nation joined the partnership.
Together we have initiated a number of projects to establish a framework for managed growth including:
- a Competitive Assessment of the Oceanside Region,
- the creation of a comprehensive marketing strategy targeting young families and entrepreneurs
- the development of a strategic plan for economic development
- a regional Business Walk where we met with 655 businesses over 3 days
- A Labour Market Needs Assessment and;
- In partnership with Campbell River, Comox Valley, Qualicum Beach, Port Alberni, Ucluelet, Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley we have participated in the development of a tech attraction strategy
The Chamber recently added a piece to our website which provides potential investors with some of the critical data they need to make investments decisions.
Current projects include the implementation of the tech attraction strategy and participation in the Rural Pilot for attracting immigrant entrepreneurs through the Provincial Nominee Program.
The Chamber has participated through membership and liaison with:
- The Perfect Storm Group as Medical Services are key to Economic Development
- the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region.
- the Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association,
- The Parksville Downtown Business Association and the Oceanside Development & Construction Association.
- Vancouver Island Coastal Economic Development Association
- Vancouver Island Economic Alliance
- BC Economic Development Association
Our Economic Development activities are currently dependent on our ability to secure grants from a variety of sources and are done on a project by project basis. The completion of these projects has provided us with a very good base for the establishment of a Regional Economic Development Function.
The Chamber fully supports the City Strategic Priority of furthering the Economic Growth of Parksville. We believe the execution of that priority should be regional in scope; encompassing the whole of School District 69. We are connected economically, socially, recreationally and we are pleased to see the moves you have made to make better use of our limited human resources.
We are in a very competitive market for outside jobs, nationally and in BC. Other regions have a lot more depth in their economic development organizations than we currently have. This puts us at a disadvantage for this type of investment. We also know that the economy is changing and that we have to be looking at several drivers all at the same time. We have to invest in creating an environment that will help entrepreneurs and start- ups.
We talk about Parksville-Qualicum Beach’s great strategic location, and the quality of life in living anywhere in the region, however many areas of BC make the same claim. We need to be better sales people proactively reaching out to the potential investor whether it is in industry, tourism, small business startups, commercial developments or residential investment.
We need economic development to attract younger people and families to the area. All of North America is aging, and we are more aware of that here than anywhere, so we have to try and get some sort of demographic balance or our local services won’t be able to fund the needs of the older population.
In all of our efforts, we should put the most emphasis in trying to help and develop local existing companies that produce goods or services that bring money into the area, as they have a larger multiplier effect to the local economy. I emphasize local as the success in growing is far greater than in attracting and the production of goods and services over the long term is more beneficial than other types of investments which do not have the same multiplier effect because they rely just on the local economy for their existence. A new sub-division or commercial development creates a lot of economic development activity when it is being built, but after that it tapers off unless that development continues to bring in money from outside the region.
By not moving forward and implementing the work done over the past, I believe we are missing an opportunity to improve the Parksville-Qualicum Beach region’s capacity to seek growth and new opportunities and investment for the region, it is clear that a united approach will provide certain results with more value per dollar than an “every man for himself” approach. Given the successes of regional economic development organizations in other regions, it is clear that the benefits of a regional approach can be achieved with minimal loss of municipal control, and without the need for expanded or costly bureaucracy.
It is our goal to see the Regional District of Nanaimo make a stronger commitment to regional economic development by supporting the establishment of a formal regional economic development function encompassing the Northern Region of the Regional District of Nanaimo.
I have included in your package a BC Economic Development Association document outlining the possible structures Our preference would be A Service Contract with an Existing Organization A local government may choose to undertake a “fee for service” contract with an existing organization in the community that is already providing business and/or economic development services. Examples are a Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures Development Corporation or other business, sector or industry group. The local government identifies the services it wants delivered and contracts these out, providing the appropriate financing. The organization can be legally structured under the municipal charter. This type of organization may use existing staff of the contracted organization or may hire or contract an economic development officer. This type of organization:• Can economize by sharing staff and facilities.
• Accesses an existing organizational and governance structure providing expertise and accountability.
• Is relatively easy to set up.
• Can provide “one stop shopping” services to its clients.
We feel that our common goal to attract, retain, and expand business and investment in the region requires a consolidated approach to economic development that is enhanced by pooled resources and expertise.