Two views: Economic development

Invermere Mayoral hopefuls Gerry Taft and Al Miller will weigh in on issues affecting the district each week leading up to November 19.

Question: What is your vision for economic development in the district?


GERRY TAFT: We don’t need economic development and jobs — we need economic diversification and careers. We need to use the information we already have about the economic strengths/weakness, opportunities/threats in our area and work with valley local governments, business leaders, and residents to develop action items and clear strategies to implement on the ground projects.

Some of the key strategies I see coming to the surface include: increasing the amount of light industrial land, encouraging more office space (potentially creating a business incubator to increase our white collar and technology industries), developing a backcountry management plan and developing consensus on locations for new and expanded bike trails, hiking trials, areas for snowmobiling and other recreational amenities, staying firm on zoning that requires a hotel before or instead of condominiums, support for and increasing the number of festivals and events in the “off seasons,” exploration for local co-generation and energy production —  especially if it could help the Canfor Mill in Radium re-open.

What we should not do is continue to only zone more land for second homes, or hire an overpaid economic development officer and try to offer tax breaks to call centres and other businesses to relocate here.

We need to focus on the creation of careers, go for quality versus quantity, and recognize that economic trends go in cycles and the worst thing we can do now is panic and give away our valley and destroy our opportunities for the future in the attempt to see some short term gains.

AL MILLER: We as a community need to focus our energies and deliver the message that we are open for business. A strong community feels sustainable practices and a solid supporting role in culture and recreation will enhance tourism which is now the largest contributor to our current economy. We need to keep pushing this viable sector while looking for new opportunities in other areas.

Unfortunately the forestry business has had several knocks over the years, mainly due to our overall world economy. My hope is that a renewed vision for the forestry sector along with possible value-added products can ignite the once-vibrant lumber industry.

We also need to invest time in individuals and groups who bring their investment ideas to the table and provide guidance and structure so as to meet and fit our Official Community Plan. And talking about the OCP, we need to bring it to the table for review and discussion in order to keep it relevant as time goes on. With proper planning and decision making developers are the district’s opportunity for growth and revitalization. By supporting and encouraging the arts, culture and the recreational growth we will create a community where people will want to live and work. This is our opportunity to build a diverse and strong economy.

To help facilitate all of these actions, we need to employ an enterprising individual with the skill set and energy focused on economic development. A great economy will help balance our environmental and social well being.