Economic momentum in Castlegar

A regional focus is supporting sustainability in Castlegar

Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff (left) congratulates the Oglow family on its Lifetime Achievement Award from the Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce.

Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff (left) congratulates the Oglow family on its Lifetime Achievement Award from the Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce. — Photo courtesy Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce

The building that houses the Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce has become the hub of economic development and tourism for the area. Under that roof, along with the chamber of commerce, are the visitor centre, Community Futures, Destination Castlegar and the city’s new economic development program. The chamber of commerce administers the Municipal and Regional District Tax funds for tourism and the funding for economic development programs.

Castlegar has not had an economic development officer (EDO) since the 1990s. The chamber of commerce recently undertook a feasibility study to determine if the business community wanted a new EDO, and what that might look like. The study addressed business retention, expansion, sustainability and attraction, and was funded by Columbia Basin Trust, the City of Castlegar and Central Kootenay Regional Districts I and J.

“It was very exciting,” said Tammy Verigin-Burk, executive director of the Castlegar chamber. “Out of the study results we created a three-year economic development work plan—funded by the same group—to ensure that we’re successful. We got to develop a brand-new economic development program from scratch, with direct input from local businesses.”

(L to R) Susan Stewart, Tammy Verigin-Burk, Jane Charest and Anna Kaytor are the muscle and brains of the Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce and the city's visitor centre. — Photo courtesy Tammy Verigin-Burk

Another finding of the study had to do with traffic flow. Castlegar lies between the communities of Nelson and Trail, with about 15,000 vehicles per day travelling through the city along Columbia Avenue/Highway 3. A section of Columbia is scheduled to undergo significant upgrading in 2018.

“That information is of great interest to potential investors,” said Verigin-Burk. “Many developers are putting proposals together and looking at buying land here.”

In 2018 the chamber and other members of the hub will focus on how they can effectively collaborate with the City of Castlegar to keep this momentum going and create a positive economic spin on Castlegar to produce growth and sustainability.

Personnel from Head to Toe Holistic Health Clinic and Clearwater Naturopathic Medicine enjoyed the 2017 chamber of commerce business awards gala. — Photo courtesy Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce

That growth will likely include a major expansion of the Castlegar & District Recreation & Aquatic Centre. Input from residents has been considered in the plan for expansion, and the initiative will go to a referendum in the spring.

Because many people who live in Castlegar have jobs in the nearby communities of Trail and Nelson, a supportive culture of regional focus has naturally evolved among the area’s residents. 

“I’m excited that the right people are in all of the positions (with regard to economic development), and that we have an incredible collaborative approach,” said Verigin-Burk. “A lot of the marketing work we’ve done over the past few years is paying off, and I believe that the work that’s being done is what the people are wanting, and that’s very satisfying and exciting.”

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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