The Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce wants the Regional District of Nanaimo to hurry up and get the Northern Community Economic Development Select Committee up and running so it can get to work on it’s plan to create some much needed new jobs in the Oceanside area.
Kim Burden, executive director of the Parksville chamber spoke to the RDN board Jan. 10 about the chamber’s vision for economic development in the region and asked for some funding to get things moving along.
Burden said the chamber has a federal grant of $9,450 to put towards their Oceanside Initiatives program and would like the RDN to come up with matching funds.
Oceanside Initiatives’ aim is to attract new businesses and young working families into the community. Before that happens, an assessment needs to be done on the competitiveness of the community using other communities as a base. Burden said in order to maintain a vibrant community and put a stop to declining enrolment in area schools, community leaders need to come up with a strategy and move forward.
“We would like to attract businesses that employ young people at a better wage than they receive in the service industry,” he stated.
Burden provided figures from Statistics Canada that shows Parksville’s current median annual income is $18,000, compared to a provincial median of $25,000. The work force participation is 44 per cent of the population over the age of 15 compared to 66 per cent provincially, and 23 per cent of our work eligible population are in receipt of some form of government transfers compared to 10 per cent provincially. He said the statistics point to something we are all aware of.
“We live in an aging community with limited commercial activity and few jobs, too many of which are low paying jobs. In addition the commercial municipal tax base is 25 per cent of the total municipal tax revenue with 75 per cent being paid by homeowners.”
Burden said they need to improve the capacity to attract, retain and expand business in the area.
He said new business and potential new residents look for a vibrant and growing community but when they look at Oceanside, they see population caps, increased financial burdens on developers and politically-driven acceptance criteria for any new development.
He said one of the areas the chamber will be looking at includes the economic development potential of attracting businesses that supply energy saving devices taking advantage of the opportunity to look to the Oceanside region as a leader and potential base for their operations.
“If we could become a demonstration place for that sort of technology and build clean renewable energy products for the future, I think it would be a good fit for the community.”
Burden said he believes green energy development has to be part of the next generation’s job prospects and they have to spur on some economic development to create new businesses and expand existing businesses, in a way that increases the total number of jobs and results in a rising average wage.
He said the current median wage in Oceanside is $10.31/hr, which is 37 per cent below the provincial median, while our housing costs are among the highest.
“In order to address this imbalance, we must embrace the goal of attracting new businesses, and young working families into our community.”
Before the RDN commits to any funding for Oceanside Initiatives, the Northern Community Economic Development Service needs to be in place first, according to the board. The purpose of the service is to promote economic development in the City of Parksville, the Town of Qualicum Beach and electoral Areas, E, F, G and H. The new RDN group has a $50,000 budget to work with but a chairperson still needs to be appointed to head it up.
Burden said he understands the RDN has a process to go through before things are up and running, but he said he wants to move forward and he will be urging the RDN to expedite things so they can move towards the big picture which ensures that our schools stay open, and that Oceanside truly is the paradise where people want to live, work and play.