The Slocan Valley, located in the Central Kootenay portion of the BC Southern Interior, has seen much change and growth in recent years—welcoming new residents, manufacturers, tourism activity and agriculture development. Over 5,000 residents, from home-based artisans and knowledge workers to manufacturing workers, now enjoy the region’s wonderful quality of life and diverse opportunities to carve out a living.
Much of this activity has been supported in some way by the Slocan Valley Economic Development Partnership (SVEDP), a community group created in 2017 to help advance economic development activities in the villages of Slocan, Silverton and New Denver, and Regional District Central Kootenay (RDCK) Area H.
Community Futures Central Kootenay (CFCK) is contracted by the Regional District of Central Kootenay to engage individuals to provide advisory and administrative services, and the CFCK provides the partner/funder liaison in support of the SVEDP.
Building on the Momentum of the Original Plan
“The original SVED Strategic Plan, crafted by Dale Wheeldon and EDCD Consulting in 2017 really got the ball rolling, helped the SVED Partnership to gel, set some strategic priorities and create its first workplan,” says SVED Coordinator, Ron LeBlanc. “By 2022, it was time to check in with our stakeholders, hear their current perspectives on priorities for the area, and identify forces that are shaping the valley, our economy and our communities, as the basis for an updated strategic plan.”
The original plan included nearly 30 recommendations, and it spurred the establishment of regional business networks, strategic marketing campaigns, and the creation of support strategies for businesses at a high level. The hiring of LeBlanc as Economic Development Coordinator was among the recommendations. Early funding from the Economic Trust of Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) also enabled the hiring of Rural Business and Community Recovery Advisor, Karen Kornelsen who provided one-to-one business advisory services and marketing support to local businesses recovering from the impacts of COVID-19.
To continue its good work, CFCK applied to ETSI-BC for additional funding to update the SVED 2017 Strategic Plan. The project was a good fit with the Strategic Pillars that guide ETSI-BC in its funding streams, which include helping build economic development capacity, and supporting business resilience and growth.
Regional Collaboration Key to Research
The project was notable for the spirit of cooperation and collaboration between regional stakeholders as the research was conducted.
“It’s not surprising that many of the issues that impact the Slocan Valley also affect other communities in the region,” says LeBlanc. “We polled community members, business owners and local government, drilling down with a dozen local industry leaders and stakeholders for their observations and advice on how to best support the sectors they represent. Affordable housing, living wage versus minimum wage, connectivity, and transportation in a shifting landscape are all priority issues,” he adds.
The top three economic development goals highlighted in the plan are economic diversification and workforce development, plus place-based development of the Slocan mill site, Playmor Junction, and Silverton and New Denver main streets.
The updated Strategic Plan was used by SVEDP to make the business case for funding to implement its recommendations through the Province of BC’s Rural Economic Diversification and Infrastructure Program (REDIP-EC). The outcome of this grant application should be known by the end of March 2023.
“These short-term strategies aim to build momentum and inspire community buy-in for longer-term advancement” says LeBlanc. “This work wouldn’t be possible without the assistance of funding organizations such as ETSI-BC and Columbia Basin Trust.”
“ETSI-BC is pleased to support this highly collaborative project that will guide capacity building and development of the Slocan Valley economy,” says Laurel Douglas, CEO of ETSI-BC.
“That means working together towards an even better, brighter future for Slocan Valley residents,” adds LeBlanc.