Council considers new economic strategy

Sicamous council may be pursuing a different path towards economic development.

Sicamous council may be pursuing a different path towards economic development.

At a recent meeting, council received a memo from district staff containing options for a municipality to pursue economic development. Town manager Evan Parliament outlined four of them, beginning with the in-house option of an economic development officer.

“You can assign fees and budget for that department, you can champion that person to promote economic development for the community,” said Parliament.

A second option is to remain status quo, relying on the economic development service provided through the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.

“You have very limited input because it’s a regional service,” said Parliament.

A third option is the creation of an economic development society, similar to what Salmon Arm has. Such an organization is run by a board of directors comprised of voting members (community members) and non-voting members (appointed government representatives).

A fourth option is the creation of an economic development corporation. This, would involve the district creating an arm’s length business of which the district is the sole shareholder.

“Any moneys that filter from the district to the development corporation, the district would be responsible for,” said Parliament. “So if you decided to advance them $2,000 in seed money or $50,000 in seed money, and the development corporation collapsed or basically decided to fold the corporation, that would be a loss… If you want to provide them a loan, you have to treat the development corporation like a business. You can’t just give a loan to a business, you have to have a partnership agreement, so it would be no different.”

Mayor Terry Rysz spoke in favour of this last option.

“If we want to get a community forest initiative in place, if we want to get a bio-energy thing – there’s a lot of elements we’re kind of working on that this development corporation would be a huge asset,” said Rysz.

In a subsequent News interview, Rysz explained an EDC could provide an avenue for the district to work with private enterprise though the creation of public-private partnerships.

“We’re trying to formulate a model, and get the tools in our toolbox, so that when these initiatives come forward, we’ll have an opportunity and the ability to do it,” said Rysz.

This isn’t the district’s first kick at pursuing its own economic development entity. In early September of last year, the district hired Will Hogan on a six-month contract to oversee the creation of an economic development society. His contract ended sooner than anticipated, however, following a presentation made during a regular council meeting that clearly did not sit well with council.

“Sometimes when you show all the negative sides, it doesn’t go well with people…,” said Rysz. “His presentation was not well-received and then conversation happened after that and then Will just felt that maybe he wasn’t the right fit at that particular time.”

Rysz said it’s still possible council may utilize some of Hogan’s research.

“I don’t think Will would have any problems at all if we were to call him back in and ask him some questions on some of the research he’s compiled. We did get a full report from him,” said Rysz.