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Nanaimo's economic cloudiness could clear

The cloudy future of Nanaimo’s economic strategy could clear somewhat with additional information being presented today (March 8).

As the city’s Economic Development Commission meets, Mayor John Ruttan hopes to get members of the 14-member group all on the same page.

“People are looking for hard facts on where we are and where we’re going and we’re not there yet,” he said. “The commission staff is introducing a report – we hope we can get a buy-in from everyone and agree on the direction we’re taking.”

The four main objectives of the city’s new economic development strategy include: establishing an effective economic development program; expanding and diversifying employment opportunities; increasing Nanaimo’s image as a destination for opportunities; and establishing Nanaimo as an attractive place to live and invest in.

Ruttan said the meeting is likely to cover a number of the goals, including the tourism function.

The city announced plans last month to restructure tourism services, redirecting funding by the end of the year.

“We haven’t got the model set up, but Tuesday’s meeting is a chance to review a strategic direction and get consensus from our commission that they are supportive of the plan,” Ruttan said.

“Tourism is a big thing and the city is certainly not going to play a diminished role,” Ruttan added.

“The airport is virtually finished, the cruise ship terminal is about 60 days out from being completed and we want to make sure Nanaimo is strategically positioned to take advantage of an increase in tourism. What we’re trying to do now is find out how this fits and develop it.”

Tourism Nanaimo was scheduled to hold an emergency membership meeting at Beban Park after press time Monday to discuss the state of the tourism sector.

Mark Drysdale,  tourism executive director, said the meeting was called to bring people up to speed on the changes and what led to them,  pass a special resolution to hold its annual general meeting in June or July instead of April and to come up with plans once the city puts forth its strategy.

“Right now, we are an organization in a state of flux,” said Drysdale. “We don’t know what the city’s model will look like or whether we can support it.”

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