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New chairwoman picked to lead economic development in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Erralyn Thomas is the new chairwoman of the board for Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation.
Erralyn Thomas

New Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation chairwoman Erralyn Thomas plans to build the integrity of the organization within the business community, which she says is at an all-time low.

Thomas was elected as the board’s first chairwoman Nov. 3, after the resignation of Andre Sullivan.

Sullivan, former chairman, was among nine of 16 economic development board members who quit last month, following the firing of chief executive officer John Hankins, including past chairman AJ Hustins and Doug Kalcsics, vice chairman. Kalscics’ position has not yet been filled.

Another director resigned in September.

Thomas said the people who resigned have their reasons, a mess is left behind and “we have to pick it up.”

“It’s a very big mess in the organization and as chairwoman I intend to build the integrity of the organization within the business community. It’s at an all-time low and also it’s at an all-time low with the tourism industry, as well as the shareholders, Nanaimo mayor and council,” Thomas said, adding her goal is to “correct the wrongs that have been committed” and stand with Tracy Samra, city chief administrative officer, and shareholders to collaboratively identify a path forward.

Thomas wouldn’t comment on what the main wrongs have been, but said it’s being looked into right now.

“You see our former CEO disparaging NEDC, disparaging the city and we will not tolerate that,” she said.

While Thomas calls heading up the board a tall task, she believes it’s one she can fulfill and that she can contribute to prosperity and economic growth through the corporation and in partnership with business leaders in the community and city council.

It’s not her first leadership position. Thomas is a Snuneymuxw First Nation councillor and president of the nation’s economic development arm, Petroglyph Development Group.

She said it’s a great evolution of her career, but a bigger factor in her mind is the opportunity to give back to Nanaimo, where she was born and raised. She also considers her roles as head of NEDC and Petroglyph Development Group as complementary.

“We could align our partnership or the economic development priorities that we have, not only between NEDC and Petroglyph Development Group, but also with other business leaders in the community,” she said.

According to Thomas, the corporation is working with the city to recruit board members, and while a new partnering agreement between the City of Nanaimo and the corporation is in draft form, she said they are finding consensus and working together with mayor and council.