Economic development draws from reserves to balance budget

NANAIMO – Corporation doesn't expect to run a deficit next year.

Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation was able to balance its budget despite ending the fiscal year in the red.

The corporation, which helps foster the economy in Nanaimo, held its annual general meeting Thursday and according to Mike Bonkowski, with auditors MNP, the corporation finished the year with revenue at approximately $1.67 million and expenses at approximately $1.83 million.

Having expenses higher than revenue was anticipated by the corporation’s board. The plan was to utilize a $302,858 surplus from previous years, leaving $140,460 in reserve.

“About three years ago … we had a surplus because of the lack of a CEO in place. Instead of doing what some organizations would do, which is try and shovel money off the back of the truck before year end, the board made, I think, a really wise decision, which is to retain that surplus in reserve,” said Sasha Angus, the corporation’s CEO.

“We’ve deployed it slowly over the past couple of years. This year we don’t see a need to dig into it, so we’re running a balanced budget.”

Highlights from 2014 include the medicinal marijuana company Tilray setting up shop in Nanaimo, something Angus said was due to a partnership with the City of Nanaimo and others.

“Tilray has been a fantastic addition to our local economy, so they’ve got 167 jobs right now, which puts them already in the Top 10 of private sector employers,” said Angus. “With [its] expansion, about $65 million capital investment, [it] will be the No. 1 employer in the region.”

As for things he hopes can be accomplished in 2015, Angus pointed to the foot-passenger ferry service to Vancouver.

“We’re working very closely with the Island Ferries on the ferry service, so we’re pushing, pushing, pushing to help them with the financial close on that,” said Angus. “From financial close, they will be up and operational within about five or six months.

“It’s going to be a huge deal for the community, not only from a tourism perspective. Real estate, there’s a host of sectors that benefit from that.”

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