Immigrant Pilot Project Boosts Lower Columbia Economy
International professionals are benefitting from a life-changing program that’s destined to boost the Lower Columbia economy.
The BC Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) helps enterprising immigrants move to BC and start new businesses in small communities. The Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC), representing the cities of Trail and Rossland, recently facilitated entrepreneur Dhiraj Chatpar’s participation in the program. He moved his life and career from Dubai to Trail, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience with him.
Since November 2019 – a time period disrupted by the pandemic – Chatpar has built a business plan that highlights his professional experience, one of many tasks that qualified him for the program; successfully secured his Canadian residency; and launched Plex Canada Consultants Inc. in Trail.
“What caught my attention about Trail was the proximity to the US border and the ability to do business with the US market. The people have been more than welcoming, and business organizations like the LCIC and Chamber continue to be helpful as we settle in,” he says. “After attending a few conferences in the area, I already have interest from business owners; that’s given me more confidence that I’m on the right track and doing something businesses need over here.”
Located in the South Kootenay Business Centre, Plex Canada Consultants specializes in global customer acquisition. Chatpar systematically helps business owners successfully outsource their sales process to expand and reach international markets. His current clientele includes a farming and agriculture business with an abundance of apple crops destined for the US and a tech company producing smart vending machines.
The LCIC, responsible for vetting applicants, helped facilitate a site visit and introduction to community groups to assess Chatpar’s fit before referring him to the BC PNP program. Jacomien van Tonder, director of Metal Tech Alley, has been leading the regional effort.
“Dhiraj has the community’s support to start a new career in Canada and raise his family here in the beautiful Lower Columbia,” she says. “The region will benefit from the capital injection and job creation that comes with a new business – it’s a win-win.”
With a shift in the economy that’s following national trends, van Tonder is pleased the organization is reaching beyond community borders by facilitating this project and creating an entrepreneur immigration stream that supports innovation and economic growth.
Immigrants increase the productive capacity of the economy, which is at an all-time low, according to Statistics Canada and the 2021 census.More than 1 in 5 (21.8%) of working-age people are between 55 to 64, which is the highest percentage in Canadian census history and one of the factors behind the labour shortages facing many industries.
The LCIC is elated about the opportunity this program provides the regional economy and its new resident, who is settling into the community with his wife Sughand Tolani and their two children.
Tolani, a former conference director for an international data corporation, is currently training her successor remotely from her new home. Although she acknowledges that moving far from friends and family has its challenges, she says the benefits are life-changing.
“To be honest, for me the move was for my kids’ future,” she shares. “Bringing them to a better place, a better environment was my main motive.”
While the region offers a much different lifestyle than city life in Dubai, Tolani says the natural surroundings bring her back to her childhood.
“When we arrived, I was taken aback by how beautiful it is and how much it reminded me of my childhood home in India next to the hills and mountains,” she says. “That was the first feeling – I’m back home – so that gave me a bit of a relaxed and homey feeling to start my new journey.”