The B.C. Rural Dividend program has already proved popular.

The new program, which was launched earlier this year and seeks to support economic development projects in rural partsof the province, has attracted 180 applicants in its first intake, including some from the Upper Columbia Valley, althoughthe local applicants can’t yet be named.

“We ran a workshop prior to the closing date for applications, so I know that at least two projects from this area haveapplied, but I can’t say what they are,” said Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director and provincial RuralAdvisory Council member Susan Clovechok, adding that she’s pleased with the strong response to the program.

“I think it demonstrates that communities are grateful and ready for opportunities for funding that will increase theircapacity for economic development. I think it’s positive that there are so many people wanting to take advantage of this.Even if applicants are unsuccessful, it’s great that individuals and organizations across rural B.C., including here in theUpper Columbia Valley, are planning, thinking and talking about economic development initiatives,” said Clovechok. “It’seven more important to have this happen in rural areas, because in many cases in these small rural communities, municipalgovernments don’t have as much resources as larger centres to do this kind of work.”

Clovechok added that she’s keen to find out which applicants are successful, something that will be announced inSeptember. A second application intake will run from October 3rd to 31st later this year.

A press release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations (FLNRO) under which the RuralDivided program falls said that, based on feedback received during the first application window, the ministry will refineguidelines for the second intake. The program guide, with any changes highlighted, will be re-issued before September2016.

But Clovechok strongly encourages those considering applying for the program’s next intake to begin working on theirapplications now.

“Don’t wait for the changes; start work on the application as soon as you can. The more work you do in advance, thestronger the application will be, and the more likely it will be to succeed,” she said.

Clovechok also clarified that although the Rural Advisory Council helped set up the Rural Dividend program, the council hasno involvement beyond that.

“We don’t see the applications, we don’t even know who has applied. The only reason I know of two local applicants isbecause I helped them through my role with the Chamber of Commerce,” she said.

According to the FLNRO press release, Rural Dividend project development funding applications for $10,000 each will beassessed on an expedited schedule and decisions will be announced early July 2016, while final decisions on singleapplicant (up to $100,000) and partnership (up to $500,000) project development funding applications will be announcedin September 2016.

For more information, visit