$50K available from RDN economic development fund for groups in Parksville Qualicum Beach region

The RDN is prohibited from helping to fund individual businesses, but the program contributes to groups that support business

The Regional District of Nanaimo is looking to help spark business in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.

“What we’re hoping to accomplish is supporting activities that can result in quantifiable economic benefits within the participating communities,” said RDN Manager of Energy and Sustainability, Chris Midgley.

So the RDN is putting the call out for local business organizations and community groups to submit proposals for funding through their Northern Community Economic Development (NCED) program, which they have done twice a year for four years.

As a municipal government the RDN is prohibited from helping to fund individual businesses, but the program contributes to groups that support business.

“The NCED program has contributed over $175,000 toward projects in District 69,” said Bob Rogers, Area E (Nanoose Bay) representative and chair of NCED select committee.

“These funds provide economic benefits in our communities by supporting emerging entrepreneurs, connecting small business owners, creating new employment opportunities and much more.”

The program, with a $50,000 annual budget, supports initiatives in the northern portion of the RDN, in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and electoral areas E, F, G and H, known as District 69 or Parksville Qualicum Beach.

Midgley said last fall they contributed $5,500 to making the Qualicum Beach Downtown Business Association’s website more mobile device friendly and $6,000 to a Qualicum Beach Wellness Society’s market development roadmap for the agricultural sector.

The previous spring the NCED supported an economic impact study through the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce, a Qualicum Beach Airport business plan, the Parksville chamber’s business to business walks and the Coombs Farmers Institute’s efforts to connect young and older farmers to pass on expertise through Farmers Feed Families.

They have also contributed several times over the last two year’s to the Central Vancouver Island Job Opportunities Building Society (CVI Jobs) “to bring employment to at risk youth through the Blade Runners program, which has been a very successful program at getting at risk youth into the workforce.”

Midgley said one of their main goals is “actually quantifying a beneficial impact of an economic grant,” which he admitted “can be quite difficult.”

In response to a recent request from Parksville chamber executive director Kim Burden for the RDN to fund a part-time economic development officer (EDO) for the northern region, Midgley said “it’s a perennial point of discussion, but it’s not something that the RDN has been prepared to invest in.”

“The Parksville Chamber of Commerce has been a fairly successful applicant when it comes to the program,” he said, praising Burden’s efforts and agreeing “there is a compelling case for a regional approach to economic development, but that’s beyond the scope of what we can offer at this time.”

He pointed out that Parksville has had it’s own EDO in the past, “but history suggests it can always be a challenge to sustain an economic development officer over time.”

He said the current model may not be perfect, but it does provide local elected representatives a direct say in the projects they want to support.

To be considered for the current round of funding, submissions must be received by noon, Monday, April 25.

Information including details on applying are available online at rdn.bc.ca or at the RDN office at 6300 Hammond Bay Road, Nanaimo. PDF submissions can be e-mailed in. For more information about the program, contact the RDN at nced@rdn.bc.ca, or 250-954-3798.

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