Squamish hoping to keep local workers local 

Four-hundred-eighty local food and accommodations workers commute

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Food service and accommodations workers made up a substantial portion of local people commuting out of Squamish for their jobs.
  • Photo submitted
  • Food service and accommodations workers made up a substantial portion of local people commuting out of Squamish for their jobs.

Squamish is “leaking” anywhere between 15 to 61 per cent of its talent, depending on the industry you look at.

During an economic update to council, economic development officer Kate Mulligan showed a set of statistics that demonstrated that the town is having challenges keeping its local workers local.

“It’s quite telling that we see that there’s lots of opportunity for bringing our talent back,” said Mulligan. “We have to figure out as a community how to do that.”

Seventy people working in information and cultural industries have to commute out of Squamish to their jobs. That’s 61 per cent of all the people in Squamish who identified themselves in the last census as part of those industries.

One-hundred-eighty locals who work in arts, entertainment and recreation work outside of town—59 per cent of everyone in Squamish who identified themselves as workers in those fields.

A significant number of locals who work in food service and accommodations also commute out of Squamish as well — 480 to be exact, which constitutes 36 per cent of all people in town who work in those industries.

During her presentation, Mulligan said that it was crucial for the town to develop ways to create local employment, among other things, and pointed to her plans to help stimulate Squamish’s economy.

One of the main tools she described was “mapping” local businesses. Using this process, she’d ask businesses to give a picture of all the elements that go into making their service or product, as well as any spin-offs.

For example, this would include the types of suppliers, workers, working spaces, products, as well as other businesses that could benefit from one business’s work.

If all goes according to plan, Mulligan said this could help the municipality identify and fill gaps in the local economy.

That way, the municipality can best choose which businesses they’ll encourage to settle in Squamish, she said.

Coun. Doug Race said there are limits to the amount of help a municipal government can provide.

Mulligan said that the municipality could assist those businesses by explaining permitting and zoning processes.

“We’re not giving them advice on whether their business will succeed or not,” she said. We’re not promoting their business in any sort of marketing way.”

Coun. Chris Pettingill wondered if devoting extra staff time to explaining permitting to a favoured company would cross the line of how much support a local government should give to a corporation.

Mulligan said it wouldn’t.

This story originally appeared in The Squamish Chief on Feb. 14.

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