EDITORIAL: Marketing Rossland - Putting our money where our needs are

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
December 8th, 2010

 A common theme heard over and over again whenever conversations shift towards taxes, services and growth or recession in Rossland is the idea that we must either raise taxes or cut services. Depending on which side of the fence you’re on, the result of either is likely pay more to maintain the quality of life we enjoy or see what makes the town great suffer for the sake of a smaller tax bill. Of course, the other idea to throw into the mix is raising city revenues through means other than taxation. 

  Hopefully most of us can agree that the preferred scenario is not to cut the legs out from the community through reduced services. If that’s the case, then why does there seem to be a lack of effort towards actively seeking what seems to be the most logical solution: actively putting energy and funds behind attracting that highly-desired demographic: 25-45 year old (ish) families?   It is these families that populate our schools, run, work for, shop at, buy from and start new businesses in town, volunteer their time to make the city a better place, and inject a great deal of money into our local economy. By no means am I knocking our older population here–they’re a valued piece of the equation as well and those age guidelines I throw out are loose definitions of the desired population at best. However, an aging population just doesn’t keep a town sustainable and by all accounts at this stage, our populations is shifting ever closer to sitting squarely in retirement age.   Sure, there are efforts aimed at attracting these people to town—the Sustainability Commission’s Nomadic Entrepreneur initiative and the Rossland Business Centre most notably and recently–but what I’m thinking is a larger broader approach along the lines of a Tourism Rossland but with a different mandate.   We should be putting at least equal if not more funds into attracting residents as we are attracting tourists. Perhaps one solution would be to grow Tourism Rossland, merge it with key stakeholders such as the Chamber, the City, the Sustainability Commission and others into a broader group called–for naming’s sake–”Marketing Rossland”.   Let’s look into that for a moment. The City currently contributes a significant portion of cash towards Tourism Rossland to attract tourists who come for three or four days, consume our tourist-focused products and drop a few dollars around town before heading home. Having spent the majority of my working career in the game of tourism marketing and sales, I’ve learned and studies show that tourists are a finicky bunch with little to no loyalty to the places they visit. It tends to be a game of one town or resort trying to out duel the other, often with price breaks, incentives and pricey marketing. In short, we spend a lot of time, effort and money to attract people for a few days only to have to re-sell them again the next year.   Tourism is a critical piece to our economy and we do very well at it and the money the city puts in gets leveraged, often several times over, multiplying the City’s and province’s contribution.  But imagine if we put that same effort into attracting long term residents. Let’s think about that for a moment.   A quick bit of research–even just by walking the streets of Rossland and chatting with folks–will show that the people who are migrating and relocating here–although not in huge numbers—are younger. Typically, they are moving here from bigger centres or other resorts because Rossland has all of the recreation at a fraction of the living cost of places such as the Lower Mainland, Whistler, Kelowna or other such places. I count myself and my family among this same category. We wanted to buy a home and raise kids in a safe, friendly environment in a place full of outdoor active people, with plenty of culture and recreation opportunities nearby. That, to me, is Rossland’s calling card and ticket to success in attracting and retaining the folks in the desired young family demographic.   Our hypothetical Marketing Rossland could do a bit more research than my street side casual survey to determine exactly what are the key qualities, criteria and characteristics that this demographic is after and what we’ve got to meet that. We’ve certainly got an amazing cadre of these very attractants at our doorstep. A clean environment, fantastic schools, a great and safe small town full of culture, active lifestyles and natural geographic amenities sitting right on our doorstep.   In talking to friends, business colleagues and acquaintances who aren’t from the area, a common refrain heard is “Where’s Rossland?” I then continue “It’s next to Red Mountain.” That’s then the light bulb goes on. Red Mountain has got a great reputation that reaches far and wide. Rossland, on the other hand, is an unknown to many. This likely is at least partially a result of the marketing of this area as a ski hill more than as a town.   Imagine if “Marketing Rossland” put together a campaign specifically targeting the 25-40 demographic that would be interested in Rossland. It could be as simple as a brochure, a video, a website extolling the virtues of a life lived in Rossland covering the points mentioned earlier. Target it to a specific audience looking for specific amenities. Then get that campaign out to specific places such as Whistler, Vancouver, Kelowna where you’ve got young people who fit the Rossland lifestyle, people who dream of being able to afford a house, have kids and raise them in a close-knit community.   If we’ve got money to spend on marketing, why not put a little more into attracting people that will spend money here every day of their lives, support our schools and shops year round as well as our tourist facilities as opposed to spending on people that will spend here for only a few days of the year and that we have to win back year after year? It may cost more up-front, but the long term pay off of a sustainable city, in my mind, far outweighs the priority need for seasonal tourist dollars.   These are all ideas to begin the discussion of how do we ultimately get to where we want Rossland to be. We have a fantastic small city that could become sustainable, event more vibrant and there’s no way we should have to cut essential services or raise taxes to survive.

Categories: Op/Ed

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