Building a Robust Network of Economic Development Professionals in the Columbian Basin/Boundary Area

A valuable resource for economic development in the Columbia Basin/Boundary region is expanding to keep pace with significant growth and change in the area.

The Economic Development Practitioners Network (EDPN) is an active and engaged network of community economic development (CED) professionals located throughout the Basin/Boundary region. In 10 years, it has grown to more than forty members: CEDs and individuals who have a primary role in economic development within municipalities, First Nations, Chambers of Commerce, Communities Futures and Trusts.

Outgoing EDPN Chair Hugh Moore describes the organization as a go-to point for information and expertise. “We connect economic development practitioners with consultants who have specific experience, facilitate collaboration between communities on projects, and share best practices,” says Moore. Members also come together to strategize on regional issues such as transportation of goods and housing needs.

The economic landscape of the Basin/Boundary region has changed over the last two years – projects are taking place on a broader scale and more contractors with diverse expertise are moving to the area. The EDPN has also grown as an organization and wanted to better understand and meet the needs of its members.

This direction aligns with ETSI-BC’s strategy to create value for the economic development ecosystem. The Trust provided the EDPN with grant funding to develop strategic tools to maintain and grow a strong and effective network of practitioners.

Creating an Inventory and Asset Map of Economic Development Professionals

An inventory of CEDs is being created to expand awareness of the knowledge, experience and expertise that exists within the region. It will include economic development practitioners working within municipalities and regions as well as individuals who work in the field as part of larger organizations such as universities and consulting firms. The inventory will also include independent consultants and contractors who provide services to CEDs such as market research, website design and strategy development.

The project will produce an asset map of CEDs in the region. An asset map is a valuable tool for increasing awareness of talent and resources within a geographic area. It also ensures contractors from within the region are considered by EDOs when projects are tendered to keep money circulating locally.

A Storehouse for Sharing Best Practices

EDPN members engage in anecdotal sharing, but an actual storehouse of best practices does not yet exist. The ETSI-BC funding will support the development of an active website containing its inventory of CEDs, collected best practices, a database of forms and templates accessible to EDPN members, and a virtual bulletin board where members can post questions and notifications of projects and initiatives. Contracts and job postings could potentially be posted here as well.

By this fall, the EDPN will also explore a collaborative initiative with a similar organization of economic development practitioners in the Thompson Okanagan region. “Ultimately we hope to see practitioners from all parts of the province participating in this powerful network,” says Moore.

“This organization has been an invaluable resource for me for many years,” says Tammy Verigin-Burk, Executive Director of the Castlegar Chamber of Commerce, and incoming Chair for the EDPN.  “I look forward to this new chapter in the EDPN’s evolution.”

Adds Laurel Douglas, CEO of ETSI-BC, “The EDPN itself is a real best practice that is modelling regional collaboration in economic development.”   

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