Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin photo)

Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin photo)

City of Nanaimo creates framework for new economic development corporation

Airport, port authority, chamber of commerce, VIU, Snuneymuxw will be partners

The city and its partners have agreed on the framework for a new economic development corporation for Nanaimo.

Nanaimo city council, at a meeting last week, unanimously approved the particulars of an agreement to set up the Nanaimo Prosperity Corporation.

Nanaimo’s previous city council, following a core review recommendation, dissolved the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation at the end of 2016, with economic development becoming a city hall function. Since then, a consultant recommended economic development in Nanaimo would be better served with both an internal department and an external corporation, and a city task force guided the creation of an economic development strategy.

Last week’s council decision, according to city director of community development Bill Corsan, was about approving the draft documents necessary to establish a corporation.

The Nanaimo Prosperity Corporation will be city-owned and the City of Nanaimo will fund the corporation’s base operations, but its five ‘shareholders’ – Nanaimo Airport Commission, the Port of Nanaimo, the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, Vancouver Island University and Snuneymuxw First Nation – will each contribute $5,000 in cash or in-kind contributions in 2021 and $10,000 a year from 2022-25. The city has budgeted $300,000 to be used by the corporation in 2022, supplemented by $100,000 which staff anticipates will be carried over from 2021.

The corporation’s stated purpose is to collaborate to build Nanaimo’s economy and increase shared prosperity, with a mandate to maintain an economic development strategy, provide co-ordination within sectors, and carry out initiatives to attract, retain and expand business and employment.

“The goal of the corporation is to follow the economic development strategy,” said Corsan. “That’s one thing we want to emphasize with our partners. We worked with the community for a year to create a strategy, we’ve identified areas where we think, listening to our shareholders, [that] they want us to focus.”

The board will include representatives from the city and its partners, plus three other appointed members including one from the social services sector. Board members will not be paid.

Now that council has approved the draft articles for the Nanaimo Prosperity Corporation, the city will need approval from the B.C. Inspector of Municipalities before it can proceed. A city staff report projects that this coming fall, the corporation will be established, a board will be in place and the corporation will be in a position to secure office space downtown and prepare a 2022 work plan.

Councillors Jim Turley and Zeni Maartman, who sat on the economic development task force, thanked staff and others for their efforts and their interest in economic prosperity in Nanaimo.

“A lot of work went into this and I’m looking forward to seeing success,” Maartman said.

Coun. Ian Thorpe said Nanaimo “has been missing this arm of the city” since the NEDC was dissolved.

“A healthy economy in our city, we all recognize it’s crucial to being able to fund and support all the good initiatives that we want to be able to, moving forward,” he said.

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