Mayor Bill McKay was appointed chairman of the new economic development commission by Nanaimo city council.

2016 Year in Review: City of Nanaimo opts for new economic commission

NANAIMO – Arm’s-length corporation disbanded after firing, resignations and reorganization.

The Harbour City’s economic future will be in the hands of the new Nanaimo Economic Development Commission next year.

Nanaimo city council has opted to wind down operations of its arm’s-length Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation Jan. 31 and strike a commission chaired by Mayor Bill McKay.

The commission is expected to be created next month after city council considers the makeup and terms of reference, including what kind of authority it will have.

The move comes at a time the city is also in the process of figuring out how tourism will be delivered after an earlier decision to pull the portfolio from the NEDC.

The NEDC took on tourism and economic development in 2011, with the city as its primary shareholder. In the wake of a core services review, council decided to have the corporation handle only economic development under a new partnering agreement.

NEDC’s third chief executive officer, John Hankins, was fired a day after going public with his questions and concerns about the city decision, and the organization has seen mass resignations. Nine of 16 board members quit in October, including chairman Andre Sullivan; another member had resigned in September. Snuneymuxw First Nation Coun. Erralyn Thomas, elected chairwoman of NEDC after Sullivan’s departure, resigned this month.

Two people formally expressed interest in being on the board when the city opened up nominations to fill seats.

McKay told the News Bulletin the nail in the coffin of the NEDC was the termination of its chief executive officer and resignation of most of the board.

City council now has a transition process to build a vision for tourism and establish a new entity, which council agreed will involve a tourism advisory committee, a contract with Tourism Vancouver Island for destination marketing and development, and stakeholder engagement.

For economic development, two unionized NEDC employees will be transferred to the city to support the new commission and the city will look to hire a manager later in 2017.

Four of six remaining NEDC board members have shown interest in the commission, according to the city.

“It’s very, very exciting,” said McKay in a previous interview. “This commission, we believe or I believe, is going to provide a closer link between the business community and the decision makers.”

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