Collaboration, communication and not being so hard on ourselves, key to economic growth

By Contributor
June 2nd, 2011

Hosted by the Rossland Chamber of Commerce and the City of Rossland’s, Sustainability Commission’s Economic Development Task Force, Sandy Santori of the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCI) presented to a crowd of 35 people at the Prestige Inn on Thursday, May 26th. The purpose of the evening was to introduce Rosslanders to the LCI, share information on current initiatives, hear ideas for potential economic development in Rossland and area or simply, to  seek out those “low hanging fruit” ideas.   Santori explained the history and background of the LCI, which can be found on their website (www.lcic.ca) or in the article previously written on May 17th, and then continued onto summarize the feedback he’s received from the multiple meetings he’s held with the each community and various stakeholders within the Region. Among the feedback received from the area, the following is a brief summary, in no particular order, of consistent comments Santori has heard:  

  • Amalgamation between the regions
  • Lack of industrial land
  • Regional branding and marketing required (for tourism, lifestyle, and economic development)
  • Columbia River potential
  • Transit within Region
  • Larger Arts & Culture presence needed
  • School closures
  • Lack of an economic vision and regional connectivity

  As a new organization, the LCI is not in a position to carry out every wish that is presented and various priorities have to be set; however, Santori has been working hard at identifying those items that are specific to economic development. It’s necessary to note that the LCI’s purpose is pure economic development which puts a limit on the sorts of ideas that can be pursued through the LCI. One example is the Trail & District Arts, Culture and Heritage Plan that was recently completed. Although LCI staff and board recognize the potential economic impacts of social and community development, it is not within the mandate of the LCI to pursue those items. As a result, the LCI will support and assist those ideas that may have an economic impact but it will not be a main focus.    Moving onto the open floor portion of the evening, Santori finished up his presentation by stressing the desire to work on a regional basis. Since taking his position at the LCI, he has always stressed that if a job is created in Trail, Rossland, or the Beaver Valley it will provide the positive economic impacts and spin-offs for the other communities. One of the biggest benefits, Santori says, of this region is the ability to “satisfy a large spectrum of diverse lifestyle choices”. And he’s right: a person moving to this region has the option to live in a resort community, central city, or agricultural area – plus everything in between. Truly, the Lower Columbia Region has much to offer so the question begs to be asked: Why do we have the troubles attracting new people and new business?    Always with a positive answer, Santori expressed his opinion that “we are our own biggest critic. We dwell on what we don’t have versus what we do have.” In order to spark that interest in new business development, it’s necessary to invest in economic development. The fact that the LCI is in existence is one example of all the area communities coming together to fill a need but as was noted, it must continue to go beyond just the creation of an organization. As heard in other meetings, there was an echoing of a need for regional branding and marketing; a task Santori feels the LCI is able to fulfill.    Accompanying a marketing and branding exercise is the need to develop a Regional Economic Development Strategy that will assist the LCI in identifying those key ideas to move forward on.  The first specific issue brought up was the status of the Columbia Mountain Open Network (CMON) intention to bring high-speed broadband internet to the region. Taking up quite a discussion, there is the desire to see high-speed internet, especially in Rossland. Given the amount of home based consultants, recently coined as nomadic entrepreneurs, in town the need for high-speed seems to be a high priority. As of late, no new progress has been announced and questions abounded as to the reason for the hold up. In a fairly straightforward answer by Craig Adams, General Manager of the Community Futures Development Corporation of Greater Trail, “It costs a lot.” Various funding plans were put forth but the silver lining came when Columbia Basin Trust representative, Lisa Erven, brought up the Trust’s interest in bringing high-speed to the region and that it has been identified as a priority. Although no further information is available at this time, it would be prudent to keep ears open from the CBT in the next little while.   Transit was another issue that was brought forward. Deanne Steven, with Tourism Rossland, clearly expressed the need for increased transit both internally and externally. Internally, meaning the ability for residents to be able to move about the region easier and externally, referring to the ability to bring in tourists easier – rail access being one idea put forward to investigate.   Lastly, an idea specific for Rossland, is the much discussed Emcon lot in town. With much anticipation for the development of this lot, the City has had difficulties in finding a developer. The obvious question was put forward and asked how, and whether, the LCI would be the appropriate body to assist in pursuing developers. With no hesitation, Santori stated that the LCI is able to provide ideas and assistance but it is up to the City of Rossland to actually ask. Finishing up this discussion, things sounded positive and, potentially Councillors Charlton and Spearn, in attendance may be bring to council.   Taking the initiative to bring economic development to the forefront The Rossland Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Task Force saw an opportunity in bringing such a forum to town. Murmurs of assent echoed amongst the crowd when discussion of regional marketing was brought up. The joint venture between the three organizations it was felt is exactly what this region needs and that through communication and collaboration this area will thrive.   Tara Howse

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