Coldstream is considering possible participation in a rural economic development function.

Coldstream is considering possible participation in a rural economic development function.

North Okanagan economic focus takes shape

There is a proposal to create a rural economic development service

An investment opportunity into economic development enhancement beyond Vernon’s borders is being proposed.

Community Futures North Okanagan is looking for feedback from all the rural municipalities, First Nations organizations and electoral areas in the North Okanagan for a potential rural economic development function.

“Similar to what the City of Vernon is doing except for areas outside of the city,” said Rob Smailes, Regional District of North Okanagan general manager of planning and building.

“We need to look at economic development regionally, not just with the regional district doing it.”

Getting CFNO on board, the regional district wants to see if local municipalities and electoral areas are interested in continuing the conversation.

CFNO proposes recruiting and hiring an economic development co-ordinator.

With that, there would need to be an investment from the stakeholders.

CFNO is looking at a $100,000 budget over three years, 25 per cent of which it would contribute, plus office space, equipment and more.

“We believe in rural economic development and we believe that this function will help,” said Leigha Horsfield, CFNO business services manager.

There is some interest in Coldstream, where the proposal was laid out to members of council Monday evening.

“We’ve been working with the economic development person in Vernon for many years and seen very little benefit,” said Coun. Richard Enns.

However he has some hesitations.

“It’s a big task and I think it’s too broad with insufficient focus,” said Enns.

“I would like to see the activities of a person filling that role be very focused.”

Developing a loose framework would be the next step in the process according to CFNO, if stakeholders are interested in continuing the conversation.

This initiative would also help generate focus, and action in the rural areas.

“Currently there’s no activity really happening in the rural areas, there is no focus,” said Norm Metcalf, Community Futures general manager.

In Coldstream at least, Mayor Jim Garlick questions the need, as he says working with Vernon’s economic development manager Kevin Poole has proven sufficient.

“That’s as much as we’ve more or less needed dealing with the glass plant and such,” said Garlick.

Metcalf defends the initiative.

“We currently see a gap. There is limitations to what he (Poole) can do.”

Meanwhile Coun. Doug Dirk has some reservations.

“If you’ve got four areas interested in the same thing it’s easier to bring them together, but I can tell you what the Okanagan Indian Band is interested in, what Spallumcheen is interested in, what Armstrong is interested in and what Coldstream is interested in, they’re all different things.”