By Connie Brothers, Revelstoke city council
One of my responsibilities on city council is chair of the Economic Development Committee. As a result I would like to write about where we are, currently, from an economic development perspective and where and how I am anticipating we will continue to move forward.
Overall, Revelstoke is moving in a positive direction in terms of economic growth. Over the past year, the number of business licenses has increased and we have seen several businesses open up or which are scheduled to open shortly. Downie Timber, one of our largest employers, gave a presentation to council last week and indicated that over the last several years it has increased the size of its investment and operation in Revelstoke and now provides 300 full-time jobs and an annual payroll of $25 million, including benefits.
Tourism dollars continue to rise, and this is evident from the number of skiers, sledders, mountain bike riders and other visitors coming to town. The Business Retention & Expansion Strategy, which came out in the fall of 2015, indicates that our predominant businesses are small and medium-sized, independently owned businesses, most of which report being in a growth cycle and are planning to expand within the next three years.
This is good news, as positive economic growth improves the overall strength and social fabric of our community. However, we can always do better, and I view one of the important roles of city council is to shepherd economic development in a way which is good for all aspects of the community and makes it stronger.
Economic development crosses over into many areas of city responsibility such as planning, labour and housing. One of the things that council needs to do in order to effectively do its job in this regard is to engage in more planning so that we understand and know what growth is best for the community, and we so that are ready to create opportunities and meet those that come our way. Here are some of the issues we need to deal with:
1. We need to determine what businesses Revelstoke should attract for positive growth, which will complement the existing businesses we have. Given the incredible lifestyle we have in Revelstoke and which is so attractive to people coming to the community, we need to use this to our advantage. In today’s Internet society, where people can work for companies throughout the world using a home base, Revelstoke can be marketed as an attractive home base for these individuals. Other similar opportunities and strategies need to be worked on and developed.
2. The city commissioned a Revelstoke Retail Strategy Report in August 2006 which needs to be updated and actively used in drawing appropriate and needed retail businesses to Revelstoke.
3. The city needs to hire someone to assist our current Economic Development Officer, Alan Mason, to actively coordinate and seek out new business opportunities to come to Revelstoke.
4. The Revelstoke Labour Market Survey, prepared in 2015, confirms what most businesses already know — that we have a labour shortage in Revelstoke. As a result, we need to develop labour attraction and retention strategies in order to be able to attract the businesses who need to employ this labour pool. Coupled with that, we will need to develop better housing strategies to assure that Revelstoke has good and affordable housing for the labour force.
5. We need to take a better look at our Official Community Plan and various land bylaws to be sure where and what type of business growth we want to see in Revelstoke.
These are just a few of the areas that I believe we need to address sooner rather than later. It involves a tremendous amount of creativity, energy and work over the next several years. Revelstoke is seen by many others outside of our community as a strong and vibrant city, a “jewel” where people want to live and work and raise their families. That is evident by the number of young people who have come to live in here in the last few years.
The number of volunteers who already devote time and energy in this regard will no doubt allow us to accomplish the goals we set. The strength of Revelstoke has always been in knowing who we are, and working together to make our community the best that it can be.