As bleak as Nanaimo’s economy looks right now with the highest unemployment rate in the province, there does appear to be a light on the horizon, thanks in part to Premier Christy Clark’s job plan, but also because of the creation of the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation.
While no government at any level has the ability to magically manufacture jobs, identifying potential and established infrastructure suggests Clark’s priorities are in the right place.
But while formerly struggling cities like Kitimat and Prince Rupert have seemingly been gifted strong futures through the plan’s mining and natural gas focus, Nanaimo will have to fend for itself in determining which sector to pursue to create enough work for residents.
Traditionally, federal and provincial governments have been responsible for job creation and economic stimulation. Now senior levels of government are essentially saying to cities, ‘tell us what you want your economy to be and we’ll see how we can help you’.
Limited by revenue from property taxes, development cost charges and a few other nominal sources, it is a tremendous task with which to burden already overwhelmed cities. In Nanaimo, possibilities include aquaculture, which Vancouver Island University is well-invested in; new wood fibre products that could be marketed in Asia; tourism; and attracting foreign students.
While all of these are not sure-fire job manufacturers – everything succeeds or fails based on variables well beyond anyone’s control – they at least suggest that somebody has agreed to take the helm to provide direction.
In Nanaimo, that task has been assigned to the new economic development corporation. It’s a big job, but then again, isn’t putting people to work what it’s all about?