Imagine Kootenay success

The success of Imagine Kootenay reflects the strength of its partnerships

Susan Clovechok (L) of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce and Jessica Fairhart of Imagine Kootenay are enthusiastic about regional collaboration.

Susan Clovechok (L) of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce and Jessica Fairhart of Imagine Kootenay are enthusiastic about regional collaboration. — Photo courtesy Jessica Fairhart

Imagine Kootenay takes a comprehensive, long-range approach to promoting and supporting the Kootenay region. The organization was founded in 2006 as Invest Kootenay and focused on having Kootenay communities collaborate to attract investment. In June 2015 Invest Kootenay expanded to incorporate Work West Kootenay, which was begun in 2014 by the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society to attract and retain skilled labour.

In December 2015, the organization was relaunched as Imagine Kootenay. It increased its focus to include the Kootenay lifestyle—a critical element in the growth of communities and their essential tax base.

“We’ve continued to grow, and now have 12 community partners,” said Jessica Fairhart, Imagine Kootenay program manager. “That actually encompasses about 60 communities when you include all the very small ones that access services in the larger ones. This year we’ll be bringing Creston to the partnership.

“When we work as a region, we can leverage our diversity and become much stronger. We have the desirable lifestyle and the tech infrastructure that supports entrepreneurship. So now we support lifestyle attraction as well as workforce attraction and investment attraction.”

Jessica Fairhart is the program manager for Imagine Kootenay, an organization that promotes and supports regional collaboration for the success of the entire Kootenay region

Jessica Fairhart is the program manager for Imagine Kootenay, an organization that promotes and supports regional collaboration for the success of the entire Kootenay region. — Photo courtesy Jessica Fairhart

Imagine Kootenay is managed and administered by Community Futures Central Kootenay, based in Nelson, B.C. That office directs inquiries about investment to a first-point-of-contact person in the relevant community. A steering committee for Imagine Kootenay is made up of representatives from the administration and economic development offices of the 12 community partners.

The Imagine Kootenay program has been recognized provincially as a best practice for regional and multi-community economic development models. The program and model are used by the British Columbia Economic Development Association in its Economic Development Building Blocks workshops.

In addition, more than 2,000 potential investors have registered their interest in the Kootenay region and 35 verified investments in Invest Kootenay listed opportunities representing $9.8 million in direct investment.

“We work with the colleges, with KAST, Kootenay Rockies Tourism and the DMOs in each community,” Fairhart said. “Our partnership is well known across the province. To get that many municipalities to work together this collaboratively is really challenging—in fact, we won a marketing innovation award last year from the B.C. Economic Development Association, so kudos to the steering committee and the mayors and councils.”

Check out the heartfelt, inspiring business success stories on the Imagine Kootenay website.

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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