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Consistency and stability: Salmon Arm rises in ranking of most resilient B.C. municipalities

‘There is a change afoot in Salmon Arm…’

Lana Fitt credits consistent, stable growth as key factors behind Salmon Arm being recognized as one of B.C.’s most resilient municipalities.

BC Business Magazine recently released its latest ranking of most resilient cities in the province. Coming in the 13th spot for 2022, up from 17th place in 2021, was Salmon Arm. In the top spot was Squamish (up from 32). Kelowna dropped from fourth place to seventh.

Only cities with permanent populations of 10,000 or more residents were included in the rankings, which are based on 10 criteria: five year population growth; household financial vulnerability; residents’ sense of belonging; residential GHG emissions per 10,000 population; rental vacancy rate per 10,000; housing starts per 10,000; change in jobs per 10,000; average annual unemployment rate; and economic diversity.

For the results, BC Business worked with research partner Environics Analytics.

“Our annual ranking has shown time and time again that when it comes to the economic fortunes of our communities, change is one of the few certainties,” reads BC Business’ introduction to its latest rankings. “In that regard, our third assessment of B.C.’s most resilient cities does not disappoint, underscored by Squamish’s meteoric rise of 31 spots back into the No. 1 position after a two-year absence.”

Though Salmon Arm’s jump in the rankings may not have been ‘meteoric’, it syncs well with what Fitt, economic development manager with the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society, strives for in terms of growth: consistency and stability.

“Our growth rate over the last five years has been about 2 per cent per year – we averaged out about 9.1 per cent over the last five years, and that’s a really healthy growth percentage to be in,” said Fitt. “So that’s kind of where we’d like to continue going forward as well. We don’t want to see big spikes and valleys in terms of that growth number on an annual basis. That consistency is what we’re always after.”

Fitt is pleased with how Salmon Arm has progressed over the past three years since B.C. Business began its rankings for resilient municipalities.

She said she’s proud of Salmon Arm’s current standing, and that the results accurately represent what she sees happening in the community with such things as development, school enrolment, an increasing number of young families and an increasingly vibrant downtown.

Read more: Salmon Arm named best community in B.C.

Read more: Column: Salmon Arm a Goldilocks city for families young – and not so young

“We see it in our vibrant downtown core with those limited number of vacancies… and some of the amazing, new additions in terms of restaurants and new retail opportunities…,” said Fitt.

“There is a change afoot in Salmon Arm over the last several years and neighbourhood development and housing development has been among the highest in the last five years that we’ve seen in our community.”

The rank list reflects how communities are transitioning out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Fitt said there’s no denying it’s been a challenge for businesses to emerge from that time of unpredictability and economic upheaval.

“I would say that I think Salmon Arm has fared very well and we’re starting to see some really great numbers in return for visitor numbers, tourism for Salmon Arm, and resiliency and recovery in that sector,” said Fitt. “I think of the things we always lean on is our economic diversity.

“We have a very diverse economy in Salmon Arm, which is so positive when there’s any major economic event – it really stabilizes our economy when we’re not reliant on any single industry for our workforce.”

Fitt is optimistic about Salmon Arm’s trajectory and looks forward to the resiliency rankings for 2023.