Valley economic strategy, transit at top of RDEK to-do list for 2012

The Regional Board of East Kootenay has set its list of 2012 priorities, and this year's list has a decidedly Columbia Valley feel.

The Regional Board of East Kootenay has set its list of 2012 priorities, and this year’s list has a decidedly Columbia Valley feel.

Three of the five priorities listed by staff for action this year are directly Columbia Valley-based: plans for a Windermere water system, a Dry Gulch water system and an economic development strategy for the Columbia Valley.

The other two priorities will likely have far reaching effects on the whole region, in a review of regional transit systems and the formation of a regional growth strategy.

These five priorities were narrowed down from a list of over a hundred, and were weighted according to sense of urgency and importance, says Wendy Booth, director of Area F.

The transit system, as it concerns the valley, regards the eventual replacement of the bus currently in operation. The bus has been active for a number of years, and BC transit requires that vehicles be replaced after a certain number of kilometres or a certain period of time, which is quickly drawing near.

“We’ll look at the transit system and see if it is fulfilling the need it was originally set out to do, and if it is working, whether or not we need to add another bus,” Booth said.

As for the economic development strategy, Booth cautions that it will be a very broad project that really still needs to get its legs under it.

“Having the economic development strategy on the list is great, because now we’ll have dedicated staff time to work on that,” Booth said.

“Both (the transit and the development strategy) projects are on the list, and that’s the first step—and it is a big step, so I’m glad to see that.”

When asked what she would like to see included in the economic development strategy when work does get underway, Booth said she’d like to see some specific, concrete ideas that can actually be implemented and seen “on the ground,” such as business expansion and retention, capital investments and supporting small businesses. She also added that the RDEK will be taking into account what the community feels is important, and says they would like more input from the community at large.

“I do think (the economy in the valley) will recover and that it will be quite strong in a few years time,” Booth said.

“I think we need to prepare for that, and have the infrastructure and have the support for our businesses in place so that we can have a good background and environment for businesses to flourish.”