Barriere has jumped too far ahead says Mayor

As The Mayor Sees It; by District of Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys

Last week I ended by saying that good plans make for good results. I also stated that I felt we needed a long term strategic Local Economic Development plan. It is my opinion that we cannot keep spending time and money, your money as the tax paying public, on undefined projects. We need a plan that will work.

Any sort of strategic plan needs commitment from both the public and private sector leadership in the community. We will need discipline to remain focused not only on the delivery of the plan but also in creating the process used to make changes to the plan.

The plan will be “results focused.” We need to clearly identify and define what won’t be done as well as what will. We need a clearly articulated statement to define our plan. The statement should include all the required elements to make it relevant to our goals, competitive yet cooperative with the goals of our neighbours and authentic with respect to our vision for the future.

The plan and the statement attached to that plan will define the experience people can expect from living and working in our community. We need to identify those portions of our lifestyle and community that we wish to preserve and strengthen as we go forward as well as define what will further enhance our community to the betterment of all.

The World Bank says about LED programs:

“The purpose of local economic development (LED) is to build up the economic capacity of a local area to improve its economic future and the quality of life for all.  It is a process by which public, business and nongovernmental sector partners work collectively to create better conditions for economic growth and employment generation.”

Barriere has the ability to not only endure but to grow and prosper. It is time to step back and really decide what we all want for where we live. It is not just about getting more jobs, having more people move here or making steady improvements to our infrastructure. It is about defining what we have, what we like and overall what we need to make all of that better.

LED plans can be really quite simple. Many of the first steps such as creating a directory of what businesses are operating here and what services there are in the area have been done. Council and the Development committee have started in on the process of improving the local business climate with process improvements at The District level and the start of a possible property tax exemption bylaw directed towards revitalization of the down town core.

We need to bring into the process all the business sectors in our area. Tourism and culture, agriculture, home based entrepreneurs and Government services sector currently are not represented at the development committee. They need to be brought to the table so that we can get the best possible input from everyone.

We seem to have jumped way ahead in the process though. Attracting foreign direct investment is way down the line of what we must do. This should only be done as a targeted portion of a well defined LED plan. It is appropriate perhaps for the private sector to do this now but in my opinion at this time we should not spend local public funds for this purpose.

The Provincial government has a large network of highly skilled individuals in all parts of the globe that work to attract foreign investors and businesses to B.C. In my opinion we should be spending our time providing these people with information on what we have and what we need. We should not use local tax dollars to replicate the process already in place.

More housing for seniors, safe well maintained roads and pathways, parks that are designed to be well used and enjoyed by all, care programs for all of our residents, facilities and programs for our young people, revitalization of our downtown core and a well designed scheme for future growth. These are all much needed long term projects that can be accomplished if we define the steps we must take to get there and use our available funds wisely to do what is needed.