Final Report November, 2011
By the summer of 2010, Nakusp and the Arrow Lakes had experienced 2 years of economic recession. Businesses were suffering, people were moving away to find work, and a general feeling of helplessness gripped the region. A few of us (Bob Toews, Laurie Page, Kim Reich) proposed to hold public meetings to educate ourselves about economic realities and opportunities.
Nakusp and District Chamber of Commerce sponsored the proposal to Columbia Basin Trust. With this support from the Chamber of Commerce, seed money from Nakusp and Area Development Board, support from Nakusp Village Council and a sizable grant from Columbia Basin Trust, the series of meetings was launched for the fall and winter of 2010/2011.
The meetings were well-attended, starting with a crash course on Community Economic Development, and then focusing on forestry, tourism, land development, and agriculture. Experts in each field formed a panel that made presentations and answered questions. Community participation was encouraged. A final wrap-up meeting was held to review what we had learned and to consider what to do next.
Based on that series of meetings, Nakusp and Area Development Board and Chamber of Commerce embarked on “stage 2”. Together, members of both executives held four meetings to select projects and develop a plan. The remains of the Columbia Basin Trust grant were used (with permission) to hire a consultant to provide e-mail and telephone support and to facilitate two of the meetings. Selected priorities are now being researched and developed as potential funding proposals.
We are delighted with the outcome of our venture to date. We have engaged and informed ourselves and the community. We have solidified our organizational roles and our partnership. We have established strategic priorities and we have attracted people to our boards. We are excited by our opportunities and feel comfortable moving forward with our plans.
Analysis: What we learned
1. The meetings were well-attended and sparked engaged dialogue. This demonstrated a community interest in economic development, as well as a desire to be part of the solution.
2. Transportation came up during the forestry, tourism, and land development meetings. Not only are public transportation options sorely lacking, but the bottleneck of the ferry at the north end of the valley is considered a serious detriment to all forms of economic opportunity.
3. The need for better co-ordination of local and regional organizations was a theme. Some examples:
Outdoor recreation groups working together to maximize the tourism potential of the land base – there is enough room for all of us, but we do need to co-ordinate trail use.
Nakusp and the Arrow Lakes working with other regions to access planning and economic development expertise – can we network with Revelstoke, Vernon, and other neighbouring communities on some issues?
Tourism marketing needs to be co-ordinated by a single organization and networked regionally so we don’t miss out on promotion opportunities or duplicate effort.
Economic development stakeholder organizations must continue to work on coordinating their efforts, including sharing of information and pooling of resources.
4. This area continues to see itself as safe, clean, scenic, and self-reliant. Residents want to keep these values and attributes, and believe that people will want to move here because of this lifestyle. There was discussion at more than one meeting about maintaining and promoting this “brand”.
5. We need professional support to make the best use of our resources in pursuing economic opportunity. It was apparent that people appreciated having experts available at our meetings, and see the value in having ongoing professional expertise to help us move forward. Concerns were raised that as ordinary citizens, we may not be up to the complex tasks that seem to be required. In addition, Victor Cumming advised us that in order to move forward in a logical and timely manner, we need the support of professional economic development staff.
6. Much of our economy is ruled by external forces beyond our control. However, as citizens there are a number of small things we can do to maintain our economy and our lifestyle. In terms of non-basic income, we can find ways to “plug leaks” and support existing businesses. In terms of basic income, we have little control over exports (eg forestry), but we have some options for encouraging retired or self-employed people to move here.