New money for the Columbia Valley
Economic development is a priority for the Columbia Valley
The recent granting of $159,600 to the District of Invermere, on behalf of the Columbia Valley, from the province’s Rural Dividend Fund is a hard-won victory achieved by a diverse group of residents who are dedicated to the progress and economic development in southeastern B.C.The grant is the result of a long process of communication, clarification, compromise and relationship building among the parties who are seeking the funding.
In this case, that group was made up of representatives from the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, Columbia Valley Arts Council, Greenways Trail Alliance, Family Dynamics, First Nations, local government and others. From an array of worthy causes, the group narrowed the focus of its grant application to community economic development.
The dedicated work of these individuals has paid off. The grant of $159,600 awarded to the District of Invermere has been turned over to the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) to be managed. Along with an additional $50,000 from the RDEK Upper Columbia Valley Economic Service Area, the Rural Dividend funds will be used to establish, staff and operate a community economic development commission for the Columbia Valley for two years. The commission expects that after that period, sustainable funding will be available as a result of its work.
Agreement all around
“We’re very excited about this,” said Susan Clovechok, executive director of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It’s been on our horizon for many years and a priority for our board for the last five years. We have advocated for a regional economic development strategy at every opportunity, and when the Rural Dividend Funding Program was announced last year we believed it was the best chance that the Columbia Valley had, so we gathered the key stakeholders and had the conversation.”
It didn’t hurt that a number of recent community reports supported the chamber’s position on establishing an economic development office.
In her position with the chamber of commerce, Clovechok is closely attuned to the needs and desires of the valley’s business community, and the chamber’s board asked her to be a member of the Columbia Valley Community Economic Development Advisory Commission. The commission is made up of elected officials from the Columbia Valley, representatives from two local First Nations, two chambers of commerce, the Fairmont Business Association and a number of community members at large.
With the funds in hand, the commission’s next task—one they will consider very carefully—is to hire an economic development officer. The District of Invermere is poised to have a strong and resilient economy because of its ability and willingness to collaborate.