COLUMN: A Blow to Regional Collaboration

kathy moore
By kathy moore
November 11th, 2016

Over the last couple of years many elected officials in our region have been trying hard to improve collaboration and cooperation between our various local governments. Unfortunately, the region has just experienced a major setback.

One area that was a sparkling example of regional cooperation was the economic development service. Fruitvale, Montrose, Area A, Trail, Warfield, Area B and Rossland all contributed to the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC) which was ably run by a staff of two, following the direction of an executive board that reads like the “Who’s Who” of our local business community and non-profit groups.

The Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS) is a larger group, again, all volunteers and municipal representatives from all of the member communities. Through committees they work on excellent projects for the benefit of our region, in collaboration with  the LCIC. This economic development structure has been held up as a successful model for regional cooperation and economic development throughout the Province.

A group of dedicated volunteers, such as the individuals who work on the LCIC and LCDDTS boards, is truly a “force multiplier”. Economic development without these volunteers and without the direction of the LCIC would be unaffordable for our small communities.

Despite the articulate and impassioned support of Mayor Mike Martin, Trail City Council voted 4:3 to defund the service thus destroying all the good work and years of financial investment made by each local government. All of the other local government partners had voted to continue the service, knowing that if any one withdrew it would very likely mean the end of it. The irony is that Trail, as the biggest partner with the best opportunities for economic development, benefited the most from this collaboration.

The LCIC fielded 75 inquiries from investors interested in the region in 2015, and marketed the region through advertising, events and social media, as well as directly negotiating and working with some large potential investors. They worked to keep local businesses vital, guiding a number of them on expansion, succession, streamlining and workforce development. They worked to attract and retain skilled workers to the area – a critical need of Kootenay businesses. They worked on collaborations between universities and local businesses- especially in metallurgy. They worked to get the new MIDAS centre established, they promote the Kootenays through the Imagine Kootenays site, and they have promoted our area internationally by participating in Provincial business attraction programs. They helped to promote broadband in Trail and many, many other projects to benefit our region.

On top of all that, they leveraged the funds the local government partners gave them, almost doubling their revenue. Benefits of the LCIC model include its independence as a separate non-profit, legal entity and its ability to attract certain grants not available to local governments or private organizations.

It boggles the mind that one council can have such an outsized impact on something that was a benefit to the entire region.  Regional collaboration should be easy to do but the reality is much more complex. This is not Trail Council’s finest moment. Hopefully once they have a chance to think about the consequences they will reconsider and, for the greater community good, support regional economic development.

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