COMMENT: Christina Lake's new economic plan
Many of our regional residents know that Area C’s contributions to the Boundary Economic Development Association were withdrawn and may wonder what we are doing instead. In early 2012, I called together representatives of the major community organizations in Christina Lake and suggested that the time had come to work more closely together. We are facing some real challenges and I felt that by standing together, we could make some important changes.
There a sense of common concern and willingness expressed to try something new. With this agreement, we found funding to hire a community co-ordinator. Sandy Mark was contracted to work with us. Mark comes with a strong background in community development and community economic development. She had some interesting ideas to offer.
In her first few weeks she wrote a situational analysis report that reviewed the state of the community. From this study, she recommended a four-point program: first, to improve communications between groups, businesses and the wider East Boundary community; secondly, to strengthen existing community organizations, coordinate activities and events and build partnerships; thirdly, to support existing businesses and fourth, to create a community economic development strategy.
Her assessment was that the basic issues in the community came down to the state of the local economy that was weakened as a result of recent general economic conditions as well as the generational shift clearly operating here. Her report also pointed to the many assets in the community showing that there is potential for real and sustainable growth.
Stronger businesses would attract more workers and families ensuring the health of our wonderful school and our exemplary fire department. More strength in our community organizations, would ensure that social issues could be attended to, once again making our community stronger and better serving the needs of children, families and seniors.
As a result of the work Mark supported and facilitated over the past six months, the participants in the co-ordination project could see that working together was bringing results. They and I were ready to take the next step. Accordingly, we have incorporated a new organization that is made up of members of the major community and business groups at Christina Lake. Welcome to Christina Gateway Community Development Association!
This association will continue to work on the four-point plan. In particular, Gateway will be moving forward to establish the basis for a strong community economic development strategy.
The organizations at the table and their representatives include the Christina Lake Chamber of Commerce represented by Lisa Smith and Nola Delaye; The Christina Lake Community Association represented by Ken Stewart and Brenda Auge; The Christina Lake Fire Fighters Association represented by Chad Freeman and Ken Gesley-Jones the fire chief; The Christina Lake Art and Artisans Society represented by Bob Dupee; the Christina Lake Stewardship Society represented by Brenda LaCroix and Richard White and the Christina Lake Recreation Commission represented by Dianne Wales and Paul Beatty.
This strategy will include building resources and programs to support business retention, business growth and business attraction. Community organizations are looking at enterprising opportunities and partnerships between businesses and community organizations are being built to cross promote. We are learning all about inbound marketing (i.e. internet based marketing) and gearing up to make sure what we offer to visitors and customers is well positioned in the social media marketplace.
Our most exciting endeavour will be to establish a community venture capital pool. The people in Christina Lake have made it clear that green businesses and lifestyle workers would be very welcome here. We see that we can attract more of these businesses if we can offer an equity partnership to them. We are modelling these ideas on a variety of examples from across Canada, the United States and Europe that have demonstrated the potential for small communities to bootstrap themselves into a stronger economic position.
And what about our place in the Boundary? I realize from the work done in the Rural BC Project that I have reported to you recently, that economic development in rural areas should be done on a regional basis. I felt strongly that Christina Lake needed to turn inward to build up our own strength. This would make us a stronger partner for regional endeavours.
As our efforts come to fruition, we will gladly share and partner because we know that ultimately, the Christina Lake community needs to be part of a stronger Boundary economy. I will let you know how we are doing as we move forward. Those of you who are interested in our progress can ‘friend’ us on Facebook or check out our new website, www.christinalakegateway.ca