Discovering the Path to Economic Recovery and Growth
With the BC Restart plan now well underway and more of our local businesses returning to something resembling pre-pandemic operations, the Fernie Chamber’s focus now is on setting the stage for our local economy’s recovery and growth. What do our businesses need to thrive in a post-COVID world? What are going to be the major challenges facing our local economy? Are we positioned and diversified enough to be resilient in the face of another major disaster or economic disruption? What do we need to implement to be an attractive and sustainable community in which to work, invest, live, and play?
As our organization and our partners in the Elk Valley started to weigh these questions coming out of the third wave of the pandemic, we recognized that this discovery process is going to take a lot of meaningful economic development work. Economic development usually refers to programs, policies or activities that seek to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community. Economic development can look different depending on the community, but generally consists of strategies such as creating more jobs and job variety, keeping current businesses and attracting new ones, more productive use of lands and property, getting more skilled workers to live in the community, and generally increasing the quality of life and opportunity for local residents.
Many communities have an Economic Development Officer or similar function either on staff at the local municipal government or contracted out to a third party like a Chamber of Commerce. It is typically these roles that lead the charge on economic development, and many of the above strategies they work on are based on good quality data – often collected thorough surveys of businesses currently operating in the community. As we evaluated our next steps to help support our local economy, we realized that there are gaps in the economic data available to us that is going to make meaningful economic development work difficult.
We started to scan the environment for opportunities to build capacity in this area for our communities in the Elk Valley. Enter the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior BC (or ETSI-BC) who in the spring released a grant opportunity to support business and economic recovery in the region. On behalf of the local governments, Chambers and other stakeholders in the Elk Valley, the Fernie Chamber was successful in its application to this funding stream which has enabled us to hire a full-time Elk Valley Economic Recovery Advisor on a one-year contract. We are so excited to announce that Taylor Jenkins has been hired for this new position!
So, what will Taylor be doing on our behalf? Over the next 12-months he will be engaging with as many businesses as possible up and down the Elk Valley to help us better understand the needs and challenges of our various sectors as we come out of the pandemic. Taylor will also be conducting much needed market research on things like cost of doing business data (e.g. average lease rates in different areas, average wages by sector, etc.) and will be pulling this all together into brand new community profiles and business retention reports with action items that can be used by our local governments, Chambers and other stakeholders as we navigate this important economic development work.
Stay tuned for more on this amazing opportunity to discover more about the Elk Valley’s economic development needs.
Photo by Raven Eye Photography