I disagree with the comments regarding Columbia Valley economy made by Mr. Pacey and Mayor Taft in the past weeks Letters to the Editor. Heres why:
1. Tourism is, and for the forseeable future will continue to be, the economic driver of this area. Regardless of whether visitors stay in fractional ownership, a hotel, B&B or a seasonal home, they are drawn here by the scenic and recreation amenities that visitors seek. Construction of the accommodations is tourism-related, not a standalone industry.
2. Tourism is competitive. Other communities actively welcome tourists and continue to cultivate the amenities to make those visitors feel welcome. If we fail to compete and fail to keep pace with other communities, our tourism industry will suffer.
3. Amenities that benefit visitors (clean water, good infrastructure, good hospitals, walkways, greenways, trail-running/hiking trails, mountain biking trails, skiing/skating facilities, boat launches, theatre/arts) also benefit residents either directly or indirectly. Furthermore, these amenities draw high-quality professionals who will move here for these amenities.
There are numerous examples of creative, entrepreneurial individuals in our community who have moved here for these potential opportunities and have started productive businesses. I rely on the free enterprise system of actively inviting these individuals to live and work here as being the driver that cultivates future economic change. I dont rely on an economic development officer or another out-of-town consultant to develop a plan for such change.
4. I also rely on the high quality not-for-profits in the community, like the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club, the Columbia Valley Cycling Society, the Columbia Valley Hut Society, CV Arts, and the societies that represent trail runners and hikers.
The members of these organizations have the qualities that form the foundation of a healthy community. Through their travels and experience at other locales, they provide a perpetual gauge by which we can judge how our community stacks up to other areas. A dollar of taxpayer funds that is invested in these groups yields more than a dollar of return in social/economic/environmental benefit.
Unfortunately, the District of Invermere is investing in a number of non-sustainable initiatives/projects that, in my opinion, yield less than a dollar of social/economic/environmental return, and as a result the local business community is suffering.
5. It would tremendously benefit the community if some of these not-for-profits had access to part of the Local Conservation Fund. The Capitol Regional District (cited as an example when we were voting for the fund)utilizes some of their conservation funds for outdoor recreation initiatives (http://www.crd.bc.ca/parks/preservation/newparks.htm) .
6. There is an expression expand the pie, then divide it. The current situation in the valley is that individual communities and agencies are competing to get their slice of the smaller pie. By evaluating the regional strengths, and working to improve and market all those strengths, we can expand the pie so that each gets a larger slice. The concept of expanding the pie has to become a core belief, not just a mandate suggested by an outside consultant.
7. There is an underlying sentiment in the community of we dont want any change. Change is inevitable. If you fight change, you end up with the haphazard development, stagnation and the economic decline we have witnessed.
If you embrace change, by attracting the right kind of individuals and allowing them to succeed, you create a cohesive community that benefits current residents and where any visitor would want to reside full-time.
Regardless of the mechanism for improving the community, be it an economic development officer, a consultant, or entrepreneurial individuals, any initiative cannot succeed unless that underlying sentiment changes.
I think that Canal Flats, Fairmont, and Radium get it. In Invermere, I hope that in the next election there is a completely new slate of candidates from top to bottom who truly understand that sustainability is based on three components: social, environmental and economic.
I hope we dont have candidates who are elected solely by advocacy groups who want to push their agenda at the expense of a healthy community.
I hope that these new candidates are passionate about the many outdoor recreational, and arts possibilities we have and want to support their growth. I hope that these candidates have enough experience and contact with other communities to see what works and what doesnt work.
Unfortunately, I dont see those candidates stepping forward yet. But I still hope.