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Adopting a new approach to rural development

Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser, left, brainstorms ideas about rural economic development with Deep Bay resident Anette Veenhof, writing, and RDN director Julian Fell, who represents Coombs and Errington, last Tuesday morning at the VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station at a keynote presentation about amenities-based rural development.  - CANDACE WU PHOTO
Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser, left, brainstorms ideas about rural economic development with Deep Bay resident Anette Veenhof, writing, and RDN director Julian Fell, who represents Coombs and Errington, last Tuesday morning at the VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station at a keynote presentation about amenities-based rural development.
— image credit: CANDACE WU PHOTO

A public meeting in Deep Bay Tuesday morning brought a new concept to the drawing board.

"It's called amenity-based rural development (ABRD)," keynote speaker Nicole Vaugeois explained to a crowd of about 40 Deep Bay residents, local politicians, RDN staff and First Nations at the VIU Marine Field Station. "Instead of looking at rural areas as places of production we should be looking at them as places of consumption."

Vaugeois, who is the B.C. Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development and works with the Department of Recreation and Tourism Management at VIU, said there needs to be a "broader shift" for this to happen.

"The only communities that will remain are those where people choose to vote with their feet," she said, adding population spikes have a high correlation with the presence of amenities.

"ABRD is emerging as a potentially viable approach to enable regional resilience," she said. "It's a place-based approach that uses natural and cultural amenities as drivers for new economic realities that encourage people to visit and invest in the attractiveness of these places."

Vaugeois said "natural amenities" include climate, air quality, land and water and scenic settings; while "cultural amenities" include heritage, recreation and sports, arts, work and community and quality of life.

"The notion of using attractiveness to drive economic development is a fairly new concept," she said, adding it is important to work together as a collective region as opposed to individually as separate communities. "Tourists don't see different jurisdictions they see regions as a whole."

Vaugeois discussed the promotion of tourism, lifestyle entrepreneurship and mobile business models pointing to communities such as Tofino and Ucluelet as exemplary success stories. She said both Tofino and Ucluelet are designated B.C. resort municipalities using tourism to drive their economies.

They also boast a population growth above the provincial average and have a median age below the provincial average.

The three-hour seminar was funded through Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser’s constituency budget, who attended the meeting, and called the idea of ABRD “an out of the box way of thinking.”

Fraser said these ideas apply directly to the mid-Vancouver Island area and he was “excited” to hear about a different approach to economic opportunity.

“It’s important to keep this conversation going,” said Fraser.

RDN director Bill Veenhof, who organized the event, said ABRD is “a wonderful way of looking at economic opportunities” for the Bowser- Deep Bay region he represents. Veenhof said he would like to plan a formal economic development forum in the near future.

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