By Dorothy Isted

Special to the Pioneer

More than 65 people, more than the number registered, turned out at the Columbia Valley Lions Hall on earlier this week to engage with elected officials and MDB Insight, a company contracted to look at ways to bring in more permanent residents to the Upper Columbia Valley.

Invermere mayor and Permanent Resident Strategy steering committee chair Gerry Taft welcomed the guests on Tuesday, January 26th and said the goal was not to create a document that would sit on a shelf but they were looking for actions that can be implemented on keeping people here year round. There is an online survey on the towns website, and he said theyd like to hear from a lot more people. More than 500 have already done the survey, which takes about ten minutes to complete. It is easy to find on the website, sitting in a gold banner at the top of their home page. The cutoff date for the survey is Tuesday, February 2nd.

In a wonderful example of governments working together, the event was organized by the municipalities of Canal Flats, Radium, Invermere and Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) rural areas F and G. One of the key phrases on MDB Insights website read Data matters, but only by filtering it through community insights can we create real understanding.

MDB is halfway through the process now and will come back with a concrete action plan to be adopted in late March, said MDB senior consultant Austin Hracs, adding the process about listening to the perspectives of both full and part-time residents of the Columbia Valley, and then identifying and prioritizing next steps and actions to be taken on based on that information.

Two other consultants are working for MDB on the project, including part-time Windermere resident and past Calgary Economic Development president and chief executive officer Bruce Graham. Their joint project assignment is to prepare a report for the steering committee, following a consultation session in Invermere and one in Calgary on Wednesday, January 27th. Please see next weeks Pioneer for a more in-depth story on the focus group session.