What’s new? Pretty standard question when instigating a conversation, one I often struggle for an answer to.
Sometimes what’s new is not new to me and sometimes there are answers I can give that would violate that other conversation starter — can you keep a secret?
So what’s new at the chamber and in the business community or what have you done for me lately?
Most recently we got final funding approvals from our economic development partners to begin a project that has been on the books for a year: the development of a business attraction marketing strategy and the appropriate media tools to identify and attract what has been termed a Lifestyle Entrepreneur.
These are people who can work anywhere but chooses to live in a place that provides the best quality of life.
Our previous project was the completion of an economic assessment of the region that found below-average employment income (the second lowest among nine similarly-sized communities), the highest housing costs on Vancouver Island outside Victoria, and a municipal tax ratio where 75 per cent of taxes come from residents and 25 per cent come from businesses. In most B.C. communities, the ratio is 60 per cent from residents, 40 per cent from businesses.
Most jobs in our region are in the lower-paying service sector, and that’s not economically sustainable. There is a need to balance that by attracting businesses that offer better-paying jobs across a range of sectors. In short, we need to lower the average age and raise the average wage. Lowering the age will help to resolve the issue that raised the need for economic development to action status — the crisis in our schools where there are not enough children to fill the schools and create the budget revenue to sustain the current facilities model — and raising the average wage will allow workers to live and buy homes in the community they work in.
In the very near future we will be posting a survey about what economic development can look like in our region to our website and we invite your participation.
— Kim Burden is the executive director of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org