Aside from “who are you?” and “what are you doing here?,” the most common question I get asked is “What is Community Economic Development?”
“Community Economic Development (CED) is,” as defined by The Canadian CED Network, “action by people locally to create economic opportunities that improve social conditions, particularly for those who are most disadvantaged. This approach, more than traditional economic development, “recognizes that economic, environmental and social challenges are interdependent, complex and ever-changing.”
What does this mean? It means that the Columbia Valley Community Economic Development Officer (CVCEDO for short) is focused on “stabilizing local economies; creating long-term employment; building on local resources and capacities; increasing community control and ownership, and the health of the environment” in the Columbia Valley – from Canal Flats to Spillimacheen (SFU CED, 2018).
This CED approach aims to improve the quality of life for everyone in a community. CED practices reduce economic leakages before trying to increase the flow of money into the community.
Using a “leaky bucket, half full of water” as an analogy for any local economy, one can either try to turn on the tap and increase the level of water in the bucket, or choose to plug the leaks. Prioritizing efficiency, CED principles help communities plug the leaks and raise the water level for all residents to benefit from before trying to “turn on the tap” and attracting additional money from elsewhere.
Looking at the big picture, destination marketing organizations are focused on bringing in economic activity through tourism; regional industry-focused organizations help businesses to export value-added products; and the CED “lens” helps to maximize the benefits to all Columbia Valley residents.
In drafting a simple CED-focused vision statement, “the Columbia Valley is a great place to live and an amazing place to visit,” the emphasis is on improving the sustainability and livability of the community rather than only attracting new visitors. Or, to continue with the analogy, “plugging the leaks” and retaining existing residents, before “turning on the tap” and attracting uninitiated newcomers.
In short, the CVCEDO is working to enable more people spend more time in the Columbia Valley, while smoothing out the current “peak and trough” seasonality of demand for services and availability of work. The more time people spend in the Columbia Valley (year round), the more money they are likely to spend and recirculate here with other local businesses and individuals. From those individuals just starting out and looking for steady work, to those older adults needing to access health services, the more opportunities and higher quality of life available here, the more likely individuals of all ages are to stay here.
None of this would be possible without the support of the BC Rural Dividend, the vision of the RDEK Board and direction from the Columbia Valley Community Economic Development Advisory Commission (CVCEDAC), who “provide advice to the Board and Columbia Valley Directors on matters related to economic development in the Columbia Valley Subregion.”
The rubber meets the road with the CVCEDAC directing the CVCEDO to execute the 4 goals from the Columbia Valley’s Resident Attraction and Retention Strategy (MDB Insight, 2016), which are to:
- Solidifying a collaborative regional approach for effective action
- Formalize and advance community economic development initiatives
- Refresh the Columbia Valley’s image and promote the image
- Improve infrastructure, amenities, and recreational features.
So that is who I am and what I’m doing here. And most importantly, why we’re doing CED.
Next time, we’ll delve deeper into what those goals mean and how we’re achieving them through CED.
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For more information contact:
Ryan Watmough BSc MBA
Columbia Valley Community Economic Development Officer