Chamber proposes liaison role between business and government 

Village and district agree on need for economic development officer

A Business Development Strategy for the Pemberton Region presented recently by Chamber of Commerce president Paul Selina to Village of Pemberton (VOP) council met with mixed response.

The presentation was divided into three sections: an assessment of the current state of business in the community, a blue-sky statement and solutions.

A number of times during the presentation Selina emphasized that he was optimistic about the town’s future.

"Not to be doom and gloom – because at the chamber we believe the future is very bright – but a good economy is based on optimism," said Selina.

Selina pointed out the climate is not currently optimistic and that with 175 properties currently for sale in the community it appeared that people were "voting with there feet."

He also stated that the chamber’s position was that failure to immediately hire an economic development officer was foolish and would only result in further loss of opportunity.

Mayor Jordan Sturdy admits that at the meeting he might have come across as defensive. Now that more than a week has passed and the two groups have met on other issues, his perspective has changed.

"In all, I think they made some good points. We have challenges and problems with the economy, I don’t disagree," said Sturdy.

He considers the strategy as a positive, solid, broad-stroke document that contains some important core research about the state of business in the valley. What annoyed the mayor was the report’s assumption that the council had been inactive.

"We’re making progress. We (the current council) haven’t been in office that long. Getting the industrial park servicing in place was huge. That’s been going on for more than five years and we got it done in five months."

Other suggestions in the chamber report, such as community leadership meetings and increased communication with constituents, have been implemented.

"We’ve updated our web page and we have the Pemberton page (in The Question). We’ve been criticized that we’ve been dealing with fluff on the page, such as the community garden, but I think that’s going to change," said Sturdy.

While the VOP will continue to refine how it communicates with its constituents, the chamber has made its plans clear on how it wants to communicate with the VOP.

"We have the professionalism, the will and the ability within our organization for you to attain this goal if you wish to," offered the chamber president. "We recognize in the human race we have clashes in personality. What the chamber is offering is to step in and listen to both sides of the story and work towards a common sense end to a problem to benefit the community."

Asked if this was feasible to have the chamber in the role of "trusted mediator" as the report suggests, VOP chief administrative officer Lori Pilon said there is a place in the process for the chamber.

"I didn’t see it as an issue," said Pilon. "It might not be applicable in every case, but it would work with some.

"I thought the solutions put forward by the chamber were constructive, some of which have already been implemented."

Other chamber solutions include creating a welcoming environment for new business, treating the Official Community Plan as a living document and amending it accordingly, as well as enjoining governmental staff to ensure community progress does not bog down in process.

"What we’re now trying to do with the chamber is come to consensus about priorities so we have the same focus," said the mayor.

One of the issues that the chamber, the VOP and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) have agreed on is the need for an EDO.

"I’ve already discussed this with Susie (Gimse, SLRD Electoral Area C director) and we agree that we need an EDO. And the chamber is finding alternative funding for the position," said Sturdy.

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