Dear Editor:

I am becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of economic development in the Columbia Valley. It seems to me that the valley has too many properties that never sell, and too many bankrupt businesses and developments.

Is it due to the financial crisis or is there a lack of direction? Is it time for new thinking and a new vision?

I believe that art can be the basis for renewed growth in the valley. There are numerous examples of cities and towns all over North America and throughout the world that have adopted economic development strategies that are rooted in support for the arts.

Toronto will begin promoting itself as a music city after Mayor Fords recent visit to Austin, Texas.

A new book called Creative Communities: Art Works in Economic Development outlines a theory of economic development called New Growth Theory, which says that economic growth no longer occurs through importation of current technology. Growth occurs through the introduction of new ideas.

The theory says that new ideas and technology have spillover effects that lead to the development of clusters of innovative businesses and artists. Art is all about creativity and the development of new ideas, and this is why it is being used successfully as an economic development strategy.

An arts growth strategy begins with promoting the consumption of art in a region. The Columbia Valley has several galleries, performance spaces and festivals. An arts development strategy would encourage the development of more of these types of businesses and events, which in turn would attract more artists who would want to move to the region because they will have a supportive community and a local market for their products. Artists will support other artists and buy their work. This, in itself, creates jobs, businesses and attracts more creative people to the area.

Could we attract engineering design or software development businesses to the Columbia Valley? Why not? The valley has much to offer. The only missing ingredient, in my opinion, is the cool factor a community that is known to have a thriving arts-based economy.

What would it take to do this? I think it could begin with a symposium on this topic to gauge support and to generate a grassroots organization. I would welcome your feedback. Please contact me at hvanreekum@gmail.com .

Herman Van Reekum

Calgary / Columere