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Nakusp groups take reins on turning around local economy

The idea of co-generation may be one of the pieces of the puzzle in the Nakusp region as several groups are beginning to grapple with the idea of righting the village’s listing economic ship.

Although still in a draft report form, information and feedback has been gathered and recently released by a panel of local groups — including the Nakusp and Area Development Board (NADB) and the Chamber of Commerce — from the Arrow Lakes Economic Summit (fall and winter of 2010/2011).

But what is needed to turn around two years of economic decline in the north Slocan Valley community still isn’t clear.

The group will be still be meeting to narrow down the list of possibilities and partnerships — including co-generation — to a workable and feasible amount, said NADB’s Laurie Page. She said they will be using the knowledge of professional economic development practitioner, Victor Cumming, in  that regard.

The Arrow Lakes Valley is greatly affected by shifting demographics, said Page, with the loss of higher paying industrial jobs (forestry), high government debt and movement of resources and investment away from rural areas.

Businesses were suffering, she noted in the report, people were moving away to find work, and a general feeling of helplessness gripped the region.

People were concerned economic activity in the Arrow Lakes Valley had already dropped to an unsustainable level, with amenities and services beginning to dwindle.

“In some respects we are at the mercy of external forces, we’re not trying to deny that. But, on the other hand, there are lots of things we haven’t even tried yet,” said Page.

Transportation came up during the forestry, tourism, and land development Summit meetings. 

“Not only are public transportation options sorely lacking, but the bottleneck of the ferry at the north end of the valley is considered a serious detriment to all forms of economic opportunity,” the report read.

The need for better co-ordination of local and regional organizations was also a theme from the meetings, said Page, as was the need for organizations in the area to access planning and economic development expertise in other neighbouring communities on some issues.

But Page said financial resources for paid staff to bring this all together in a small community were limited, and is proving an organizational challenge for the two groups.  Four points are emerging from the Summit, said Page:

  • invest in volunteers and build capacities as organizations
  • collaborate with other stakeholders, especially the Village of Nakusp and the RDCK
  • identify the most cost-effective projects with the best economic potential
  • raise money to pursue identified projects.

“And tourism marketing needs to be coordinated by a single organization and networked regionally so we don’t miss out on promotion opportunities or duplicate efforts,” Page said in the report.

  • The interim report is available on www.nadb.ca under economic development. There will be a final report to the CBT after that.

If there are people who want to get involved with what is building, they can contact Laurie Page at NADB or talk to Kim Reach at the Chamber of Commerce.