Can rural B.C. succeed in the future?
Occasionally, and usually during elections, public discussion and media attention turns to the state of rural B.C. and the need for more resources to assist rural communities. While the simple acknowledgement that rural BC needs more assistance is generally well received by everyone interested in such matters, what is lacking is discussion of the systemic economic challenges facing rural B.C. Rural communities are challenged with slower population growth, particularly in young adults, less job opportunities, and struggle with how to stem the flow of investment and people to larger urban centres. George Penfold, Regional Innovation Chair in Rural Economic Development at Selkirk College, will be exploring these ideas at a forum to be held at Christina Lake on Monday, Mar. 21. “Given the list of challenges facing rural B.C. communities it is perhaps not surprising that some observers question whether rural decline can in fact be reversed,” said Penfold. “Indeed the challenges faced by B.C.’s rural communities are being faced by rural communities throughout Canada and for that matter across the western industrialized world. But as Professor Hutton has eloquently pointed out, a continued disparity in the economic vitality among regions of BC will only foster a greater sense of alienation in rural residents.” Penfold has a professional background that includes rural economic development, socio-economic impact assessment, community and organizational development, community planning and policy and related legislation and research. A faculty member at the University School or Rural Planning and Development at the University of Guelph from 1981 to 1995, Penfold then became a community planning and development consultant on Vancouver Island. In that capacity he worked with private landowners, community organizations, local, regional and provincial governments and First Nations communities. In 2006 he joined Selkirk College in Castlegar as Regional Innovation Chair in Rural Economic Development. Solutions to the rural challenge? Penfold suggests six different ways that local and provincial governments can support the development of rural areas. His suggestions span from provincial programs for investment attraction and rural development planning to sharing the wealth generated by resources and the creation of successful economic development organizations.
Can rural B.C. be optimistic about the future? Everyone is welcome to attend this free event to learn more about the potential for rural B.C. to succeed on Monday Mar. 21 at 7:00 p.m. at the Christina Lake Hall.