Directors discuss money earmarked for regional economic development

NANAIMO – Rural areas left with funds after Nanaimo corporation dissolved.

With the December dissolution of the NEDC, Regional District of Nanaimo rural area directors are uncertain where their economic development dollars will go.

The regional district is in the midst of 2017 budget planning and Howard Houle, Gabriola Island director, said his area had about $65,000 in contributions budgeted for the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation.

Tourism was one function Gabriola worked on with the corporation and it is yet to be decided whether to withhold money or where it could go, said Houle.

“I think that’s something I’d have to have a good long conversation with Gabriolans about, particularly with the chamber of commerce, because the chamber of commerce is where tourism and economic development is easily seen and they’ve been doing quite a bit with tourism in the past, in working with the NEDC,” said Houle.

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay will chair a new economic commission, but Alec McPherson, Cedar area director, said there haven’t been any discussions with the new entity yet. McPherson had about $68,000 allotted, and doesn’t know where he would like to see it going.

“If nothing was to be put forward to this new organization, I would think that my residents would rather see it go back in their wallets,” said McPherson. “It’s a fair chunk of change when you take a look at it. I believe it means around $13 for every man, woman and child in the area.

“One of the things we’ll be looking at is what benefits are there now?”

Maureen Young, Extension area director, could not be reached for comment.

McKay said there hasn’t been any discussion with regional district staff yet, but he wanted to act as quickly as possible.

“We’re going to have to determine what sort of product and service delivery model we’re actually going to end up going with,” said McKay.

“I’m going to be having a meeting with city staff [Jan. 12] with respect to economic development.”