Parksville chamber CEO pitches economic development plan to RDN

Kim Burden would like to see the RDN free up money for an economic development co-ordinator, under the Parksville chamber umbrella

Kim Burden says he would like to move economic development off the corner of his desk.

The executive director of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce has made a pitch to the Regional District of Nanaimo to do just that.

“I work 60 hours week running a chamber and I cannot do justice to the job of forwarding economic development in our community as well as that, something has to give,” Burden said recently. “I’ve been running this off the corner of my desk for the last three-four years and in order for us to move it forward it requires more time and more resources.”

The RDN passed a motion on March 22 giving its blessing to the formation of a group that includes the chief administrative officers of Parksville, Qualicum Beach and the RDN. Burden’s plan includes the hiring of an economic development co-ordinator, under his direction.

“We need somebody who can gather information, follow up on requests for information,” said Burden. “Someone who can track businesses who are thinking of coming to the community so we can make sure we don’t miss anything — it’s a sales gig.”

Burden said the best-case scenario for this position to be filled is about a year from now. He is looking for the RDN to budget $50,000/year for the position and other expenses related to the office. It would be something short of a traditional economic development officer’s position.

“I don’t think we need an officer at this stage, that may come,” he said. What’s the difference? “Salary, knowledge and expertise, skill set. It’s a part-time position. It’s not all money dedicated to salary. There’s other money there that we can leverage by putting a project together and we can get a grant.”

Burden spoke about the evolution of the idea.

“Five years ago I didn’t know anything about any of this,” he said. “I’ve been to seminars, I’ve joined the economic development association of B.C., because we had nothing going on here and somebody needed to step up. I took it to my board, they said go ahead, and we stepped up.”

“Could I run economic development in this community? Yeah, probably with what I’ve learned and what I’ve done.” Burden was asked if he wanted to be that person? “No. I want to supervise that person. My pitch is that it comes under the (Parksville) chamber umbrella.”

There are three components to economic development, said Burden. One is business succession planning — keeping businesses here when owners retire or want to sell.

Second is business retention and/or expansion.

“We want to make sure the businesses we have are healthy and have the environment they need to grow in so they can access employees, access resources,” he said.

The third component is what many people associate the words ‘economic development.’

“Business attraction is the most sexy of all the components of economic development, its the one that everybody wants to get engaged in,” said Burden. “It’s also the one that sucks up the most resources and has the least results. But they are all important. We need new businesses, we need to keep the businesses that we’ve got and we need to make sure the people who are moving on turn their businesses over to someone who is coming in.”

Burden’s said his plan is in a bit of limbo right now.

“They (the RDN) haven’t signed off on the position,” he said. “They have signed off on discussions to see how we can move forward.”

Just before deadline Monday, the RDN issued this related call for submissions:

“The RDN invites business and community groups in District 69 to submit proposals for funding under the Northern Community Economic Development (NCED) Program.

“The NCED Program has contributed over $175,000 toward projects in District 69,” said Bob Rogers, chair of the RDN’s NCED Select Committee and representative for Nanoose Bay. “These funds provide economic benefits in our communities by supporting emerging entrepreneurs, connecting small business owners, creating new employment opportunities and much more.”

The RDN release Monday said the program supports initiatives in the City of Parksville, the Town of Qualicum Beach and Electoral Areas E, F, G and H. Submissions must be received by noon on April 25.

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