Editorial: What is and isn’t working for current residents?

Second homeowners in the Columbia valley have one thing in common. They feel at home here

Second homeowners in the Columbia valley have one thing in common. They feel at home here, enough to finance a house to which they can retreat on weekends and holidays, so they can spend their precious time off in a place that brings them happiness and rejuvenation, before heading back to home number one for their daily grind.

The Columbia Valley Resident Attraction and Retention initiative (which Invermere mayor Gerry Taft touches on in this week’s Regional Rundown column) is trying to figure out how to encourage these part-time residents to make the valley home number one. It’s an interesting goal to tackle, one that will undoubtedly unearth some valuable talking points that could point the future development of the valley, economic and otherwise, in a new direction.

We all know this area has unsurpassed natural beauty, endless year-round sports and outdoors activities, a robust arts and culture scene, non-stop community events, a fantastic school system and strong local government. Invermere, Radium and Fairmont boast strong town centres and with two ski resorts, a national park, endless backcountry trails and lakes, and several strong economic pillars such as forestry, mining and tourism, the Columbia Valley seems to have everything a small B.C. town could ask for. So what’s missing?

Two key factors in attracting and keeping new residents are obviously jobs and reasonably priced housing. Not the under $20 an hour front line jobs that valley businesses have had a hard time filling since their access to the temporary foreign worker program was cut off, but year-round jobs that ensure middle class lifestyles, which result in more money spent locally and resident retention until retirement. Whether it’s attracting new industry like the thriving technology sector, or establishing new post-secondary school options or welcoming more entrepreneurs, the push to increase the local population needs to first investigate what is not working for current residents as well as what is, which is why getting involved in the public consultation of this process is so important to the community’s future.