Well-known entrepreneur, philanthropist, and long time Columbia Valley homeowner, W. Brett Wilson, took some time over the Thanksgiving weekend to discuss the importance of charity in a community, as well as advice about what he thinks the valley needs to do to continue emerging from the latest economic downturn.
He also spoke about his involvement with the first annual Kelly Hrudey and Friends Charity Golf Classic to be held at Copper Point next summer.
Being one of the original owners of Copper Point, and given his reputation as the only character with a heart on the hit CBC show, Dragon’s Den, it follows that Mr. Wilson is in support of charitable endeavours; but it is not because he feels a sense of social responsibility, but rather that he considers the ability to help others social good fortune.
“Changing the world is an opportunity. Just because you have wealth doesn’t make it your responsibility; it is everyone’s responsibility,” Mr. Wilson said. “Most organizations that I work with have a serious commitment to, and an understanding that, having a strong positive social context is ultimately good for their brand.”
This doesn’t mean that his giving is jaded by a desire for good public relations; on the contrary, his profile and impressive portfolio have allowed him to take advantage of more social opportunities than most.
He said he chose the Columbia Valley as his second home because he enjoys the energy of the area, and it is a convenient location to get together with friends and family, which again he has used as an opportunity to host fundraisers for local organizations and charities. He said he understands the opinion of some locals that he is an outsider, but he also points out that it is the outsiders that help support the valley through property taxes and, in his case, the spending of his time and money on worthy causes.
“I often point out that criticism is free,” he said. “You can criticize anyone or anything you want for free, but action requires brains, courage and a wallet.
I often come across the mentality where people feel the government should provide everything in terms of services, but they just can’t. And if they aren’t getting to it in a timeline that you feel is right, step in, and that’s where charities generally develop.”
In discussing ways the valley can foster investment, as well as sustain and grow the permanent population, Mr. Wilson said the most important focus should be the youth in the community, as they are the business owners, investors and volunteers of the future. Instilling a healthy understanding and appreciation of entrepreneurship, philanthropy and marketing at an early age is at the core of developing a future for young people in the valley, Mr. Wilson said. He added that he strongly believes that these three subjects should be worked into the education system at various grade levels in appropriate ways.
When asked what three things he would do if he were in charge of economic development for the area, Mr. Wilson said he would first begin to educate the youth; second, develop and encourage a sense of pride and celebration in what the valley already has, for use in marketing; and third, to work hard on developing the infrastructure needed to support further growth.
“If you can attract light industry, I would encourage the local area to do it. It’s okay for a local government to offer incentives in terms of limited business or property taxes for a period of time,” he said. “That would give people the incentive to take the risk to come to you.”
Some other suggestions Mr. Wilson has for the area is to encourage responsible mining operations to start up, expand the Invermere airstrip, and for the local governments to respect the visiting tax base a little more in terms of communicating plans and requests for input on issues, even if the homeowners aren’t living in the area full time.
“I don’t think I have ever seen a mail out ever. I haven’t seen anything from the local government in the years I have been here, except for bills, so if they think our relationship is warm and endearing they’re wrong,” Mr. Wilson said. “Having said that, there’s no animosity, but they have done nothing to engage me. If they want me to bring business and do stuff here, it is in their camp to show me how great it is. I’m not offended, but it is a lost opportunity for them.”
If he had to choose only one piece of advice, however, it would be to support and engage the youth, which fits with the three charitable organizations next year’s fundraising golf tournament at Copper Point will be supporting. Locally, the Summit Youth Centre, the Elementary and High School Hockey Academy; and regionally, the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre, will all be recipients of dollars as a result of the charity classic.
“Investing in your youth is very, very important. That’s your five and ten year plan right there,” he said.
More celebrity attendees will be announced as they sign on, but Mr. Wilson is confident that there will be a wide array of interesting characters in attendance. For more information about the tournament, visit www.kellyhrudeyclassic.com.