Squamish takes new approach to business 

District's latest hire will tackle business and event development from the ground up

Squamish can be a funny place to do business. One moment it's bustling, the next it's a veritable ghost town.

To improve consistency and ensure a vibrant business environment for all sectors, the District of Squamish has hired an economic sustainability coordinator. It's a new position for the District, the result of the city's approval of a five-year plan for economic development activities.

"Primarily the initial focus is going to be on local businesses and working with them to improve the local business environment, so what we're doing is launching a business retention and expansion program," said new economic sustainability coordinator Dan McRae, an 11-year resident of Squamish who has been immersed in the city's business culture for over a decade. "The idea is that I'll go out and meet with business owners face to face and interview them... I collect the data, establish a relationship with the business owner, try to help them out with any immediate things that I can or refer them to one of the other local business services in town that may be more relevant for helping them depending on their situation."

McRae will work with the Squamish Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures, Inside Edge, Tourism Squamish, Training Innovations and the Downtown Business Improvement Association to synchronize their services with various business objectives. Once he's gathered his data, he'll be able to help businesses meet objectives from a District standpoint and eventually look at how Squamish can better navigate from a broader economic slant.

"Basically, once all the interviews are conducted, we can extrapolate information from that program to understand what the issues are for different sectors or areas of town and then we can get together in workshops to find solutions for them," he said.

While part of his job will eventually involve attracting big business to town, McRae said the primary focus early on would be grass roots.

"We need to make sure that before we do anything that we've addressed the local business environment," he said. "It's hard to really focus on going out there to attract a big fish or big investor into town  - or any outside investment for that matter - because if I'm an outside investor and I want to come into Squamish to do business, the first thing I'm going to do is go around and ask other business owners what it's like to do business here and if they're being looked after."

McRae will also work to harmonize exposure and benefits between local business and various events such as Live at Squamish, Logger Sports, Squamish Equinox Rock Festival (SERF) and the Bass Coast Project.

"The event sector is one of those things that has organically grown here," he said. "I think branding ourselves as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada has helped to attract them, as has our proximity to Whistler and Vancouver. Squamish has all this natural infrastructure and beauty that attracts people here. My role is to connect local business to those events and those events to local business to try and make sure the benefits are spread out around the business community and also that they're understood around the business community."

McRae has a degree in commerce, a diploma in marketing and real estate technology, and is currently completing a certificate in project management. He is the former owner of the Brackendale Bistro, and has worked for Community Futures in various capacities, including the loan program and economic development and strategies.



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