More Rural Dividend money flows into Valley

Local communities benefit from Rural Dividend funds

The B.C. Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resources Operations Rural Dividend Program has just announced that over $750,000 will be granted to the province’s rural areas.

These rural grants are being given to small communities for projects to diversify and strengthen local economies. In the Columbia Valley, the Ktunaxa Nation Council Society (in Windermere) and the District of Invermere both were awarded grants of $10,000.

“The funding that was just recently announced is a small amount of money. It’s $10,000 earmarked for what we are calling a business needs assessment, which is basically looking at our downtown core and what future uses might be needed in the downtown,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft.

The district will use the funding to seek out consultation for developing the downtown, looking for areas for growth.

“The intent of the strategy is to assess the current downtown business environment, assess vacant lands and buildings for their ability to foster businesses, and develop a program to fill any business voids within the community. The strategy would also review and provide investors with the potential to see that there is a capacity for additional businesses, business expansion opportunities,” said District of Invermere chief administrative officer Chris Proseer.

Furthermore, a key focus of the 2017 business needs assessment will be focused on what happens to the old community hall site.

“What happens to the land is something we need input from the community on. In a way, the questions are going to be of medium-term and long-term, or short/medium-term and then long-term. Realistically, we also know we don’t have a lot of money to suddenly build a giant building or do a bunch of work on that site either. So we might end up coming up with something that’s a short-term strategy and long-term vision,” said Taft.

The business needs assessment is supported by the 2016 Resident Attraction and Retention Strategy. A key element of the strategy’s recommendations was economic development.

Last year, the District of Invermere received $159,600 in grant money from the Rural Dividend Program.

“We were successful in a rural dividend application last year as well, and that was for more money and that funding, Invermere applied for it, but we basically worked with the whole Valley on it and we’ve turned the money over to the Regional District and that’s what being used right now for the seed funding for new economic development service,” said Taft.

The Ktunaxa Nation Council Society was unable to be reached for a comment regarding their plans for the grant.