For a year, a group of local business people have been holding informal meetings with the aim of finding ways to make Revelstoke a better place to live and do business. They call themselves Focus Revelstoke. We talked to some of the people involved to find out what they’re all about.
Deep in the back rooms of Revelstoke, a group of business people have been holding clandestine meetings, secretly plotting the community’s future. The group consists of a lawyer, Realtors, developers, a former mayor and more. They’re the Illuminati or Bilderbergers of Revelstoke. Just what is Focus Revelstoke up to?
“Some people seem to think of it as some secret subversive group, but basically it’s open to anybody that wants to come,” Mark McKee, one of the groups de facto chairs told me in an interview. “It’s not really a big deal.”
Focus Revelstoke is an informal group of mostly business people that have been meeting for the past year, brainstorming ways to improve the community. Their meetings are open to anyone interested in taking part and about 30 people have joined in at some point.
It’s not a political party, though two members of the group are running for council.
Randy Driediger, the manager of RCU Insurance, takes credit for starting the group about a year ago when he invited a few local business people to a meeting to look at ways to spur economic development. One of them had an acquaintance looking to relocate their business, and the hope was to convince them to come to Revelstoke.
“It was two-fold,” he said. “It was not only looking at the city, but also finding a way for local business people to invest in the community in some way to not only help the community, but also to make us some money. That was the original idea.”
From that start, the group started to grow and its focus began to shift. As more people joined, the aim wasn’t economic development for the sake of making money, but development to make Revelstoke better. “Let’s just help the community, and we’ll all benefit from it,” said Driediger.
The members include a selection of business people and active community members. There’s McKee, a former mayor; lawyer Connie Brothers; Scott Duke and Trevor English, two business people who are running for council; Brock Freathy of Ursus Construction, Greg Hoffart of Tree Construction, Jean-Marc Laflamme, a web marketing expert, and more.
“Focus Revelstoke is a think tank comprised of leaders of the community and active members in the community,” said Duke when asked to describe the group. “The mandate is to make Revelstoke a better place to live.”
At the meetings, which are held irregularly, they discuss different issues, from taxation to development cost charges to signage. There’s a loose agenda and ideas are exchanged. They look at what other communities are doing and discuss how the good ideas can be implemented in Revelstoke.
“I would hope council and staff is no different,” said McKee. “If they see another community doing something really good and innovative, then we should see if it can be implemented in our community.”
There’s no doubt the group has a business focus and there is overlap between Focus Revelstoke and the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. As well, the group has members that sit on various city committees. If a good idea emerges from a Focus Revelstoke meeting, members can take it to their various committees and boards and try to have it implemented.
The group has launched a few tangible initiatives. One was a list assembled by Duke of potential businesses that could work in Revelstoke.
Another is the Revelstoke.com website. “The .com is for community,” said Laflamme, who built the site. The site’s tagline is “Entrepreneurial Mountain Paradise.”
The website has three sections — a community description for potential residents and business owners, a place with information on running for mayor and council, and where candidates can post their bios; and a section where people can solicit feedback on ideas.
The latter section is perhaps the most interesting. Using an app called Ideascale, people can post ideas or questions, and others are allowed to vote them up or down and post comments.
“The overall goal of the website is to be a centre point of community development, and assisting our government representatives with making wise decisions and really spearheading development in different ways,” said Laflamme.
He hopes the website becomes a place for productive community-wide discussion. “It’s hopefully used by the community to lead towards open government,” said Laflamme.
While Focus Revelstoke is not overtly political, two of its members — Scott Duke and Trevor English — are running for council, though they both say they’re not running as part of a Focus Revelstoke party.
“As much as I think Scott’s a great guy, we don’t have the same platform,” said English. “It’s a brainstorming group, it has no political aspirations whatsoever.”
Driediger said he wasn’t interested in the political aspect of Focus Revelstoke and would rather focus on business development. McKee, with his experience in politics, said he was willing to provide advice to prospective candidates.
“There are those within the group that thought one of the ways we can make change happen in the community is by having representation on council,” said Driediger. “That’s where that political group has splintered off.”
As McKee put it succinctly, the overall goal of the group is to encourage more business and more jobs in Revelstoke so more people can afford to live here. “If everybody in the community was thinking up an idea here and there and a few of them got implemented, that’s how we make Revelstoke a better place to be.”
Interested in attending a Focus Revelstoke meeting? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.