Since 2004, investors wanting to live and work in the Kootenays have found the opportunities they were searching for through the Imagine Kootenay website, an information portal that attracts investment to the region. Imagine Kootenay has generated over $40 million into regional businesses in the last decade, creating and retaining jobs and a highly desirable quality of life.
Imagine Kootenay is a regional partnership between nine communities from Rock Creek to the Alberta border, and Golden to the US border. Within this partnership, cities, towns, regional districts, Chambers of Commerce, Community Futures and First Nations collaborate with realtors, industry associations, post-secondary institutions, employers, and other stakeholders to attract investment into the region.
Historically the Imagine Kootenay website has been used by investors within the Kootenay region, followed closely by investors across BC, Alberta, and Ontario. The current Imagine Kootenay Across Canada initiative is strengthening and revitalizing its lead management framework to attract investors from across the country and potentially overseas.
Regional Collaboration at the Heart of a Successful Attraction Strategy
“In these uncertain times, communities need targeted approaches to address their unique challenges and opportunities,” says Tom Thomson, Executive Director of the Nelson Chamber of Commerce and the first point of contact for Imagine Kootenay investment inquires. “This project will place the unique investment opportunities in communities throughout the Kootenays on the domestic stage, and ensure our communities are investor-ready when inquiries come in from new markets.”
Expanding investment attraction will add value to the economic development ecosystem, attract new workers to the region and build economic capacity – factors that align with the strategic focus of the Economic Trust of Southern BC (ETSI-BC). ETSI-BC provided grant funding for the project which takes place in tandem with an initiative to attract international investors funded by CanExport and the BC Rural Dividend Fund. The latter will provide Imagine Kootenay with additional insight into harnessing foreign domestic investment.
Building on Success and Best Practices
The project began in January 2022 with in-depth research to determine where Imagine Kootenay has been successful and where it can improve. Factor 5 Group, an economic development social enterprise that specializes in co-creating sustainable communities consulted with 50 Imagine Kootenay users and stakeholders to create an inventory of business and property listings that are suitable for domestic investment. The research also identified best practices in Imagine Kootenay’s lead generation and management system.
Developing a Protocol for Consistent Lead Management
“This next phase is where Imagine Kootenay takes investment attraction to the next level,” says Factor President and CEO, Eric Burton. “While many communities are trying to attract investment from across Canada, Imagine Kootenay facilitates transactions by providing investors with information in a highly responsive way to help them make their decision.”
This fall, Factor 5 Group will provide customized training in lead management to the Imagine Kootenay points of contact. The training will be tailored to each community’s needs and resources, from front line tourism staff to economic development officers, business owners and other stakeholders. By the end of the year, the Across Canada Project investment attraction strategy will be in place, ensuring consistent and efficient lead management across the region.
Laurel Douglas, ETSI-BC CEO says, “This initiative demonstrates how collaboration among Kootenay communities can strengthen economic capacity and take investment attraction to a new level. For those who call the Kootenays home, and those who aspire to, Imagine Kootenay will be the face of the Kootenays for years to come.”