Carolyn Grant and Arne Petryshen
From the moment Don McCormick began campaigning for mayor in 2014, one of the things he spoke most about was regional economic development.
Which is why he is very keen to make a success of a new venture, the Cranbrook Kimberley Development Initiative.
An initial meeting has been held with local business people and McCormick says he was pleased with the buy in on the idea.
"We have to make this a success," he said. "Cranbrook has the same problems we do with industrial taxes. There aren't much of them. Our millrates are some of the highest in the region. We have to find new sources of industrial revenue."
McCormick says an advisory committee has been formed and businesses got together to talk strategy.
He says the Columbia Basin Trust is also interested in the potential of the idea but said that the business community had to be involved.
"So we morphed the direction a little to get buy in. We want to create a fund to promote the Cranbrook Kimberley business corridor, to market why this is a good place to do business.
"There are cost advantages for set up and operations. We are far cheaper than urban areas like Vancouver.
"We have a stable labour force who don't want to go anywhere else.
"You can combine lifestyle with business."
Kimberley/Cranbrook are not competing so much with towns the same size for business, McCormick says, but with far more populated areas.
“We have a package we can put together for specific industries we are targeting. Lee (Pratt, Cranbrook Mayor) and I will be the salesmen.
“We are fast-tracking this. We’ve gone to a number of businesses in the community and said ‘here’s what we are doing’, and asked for $5,000 from each. Our goal is a fund of $250,000 and that will enable us to leverage matching funds. That will give us half a million dollars to do sales and marketing.”
McCormick says 60 businesses attended the initial meeting in Cranbrook and 31 committed $5,000 on the spot.
“The response has been really positive. We have a website under development. We are on a fast track with this. One hundred per cent of the money will be spent on sales and marketing. There is no staff though city staffs will provide some help.
“We created a non-profit Cranbrook Kimberley Development Initiative Society and the comptroller at New Dawn will watch the funds. There will be a board of directors and oversight on the money. It’s a good organization we have in place.”
McCormick says that they even have their first lead.
“Leads come in from all over and this one is a long shot, but Molsons is looking to move a brewery in B.C. These are the kind of things we need to stay on top of.”
Even if that one doesn’t pan out, McCormick says that aggressively pursuing every lead that comes along will eventually lead to some success.
Cranbrook mayor Lee Pratt noted they have a business plan in place and a early budget in the works.
“We’re really excited,” Pratt said. “The business community has really bought into it; it’s their initiative more than ours, without them we wouldn’t be where we’re at, that’s for sure.”
Pratt said with the investment from businesses, they will look for matching funding and then leverage the money.
“Our target was 50 business at $5,000 each, and then Cranbrook, Kimberley and the regional district put in some money,” Pratt said. “And what we’re hoping to do is leverage that up to somewhere around $500,000 to $600,000.”
He also noted the money will be used strictly for sales and marketing, and said there would not be anything in the way of administration.
“Predominantly, that’s what’s happened in the past with economic development commissions,” Pratt said.
He said said both he and McCormick are successful sales guys.
“We both know what it takes to make things happen, so that’s the path we’re going on,” he said.
Pratt said it is all coming together with the business plan in place, as well as marketing and sales plans and the target list of industries to pursue.
“We’re doing some networking with some of the existing businesses and some other that connected with some good input, and could possibly give us some leads on their centres of influence, their networking and the people they deal with,” Pratt said.
Pratt said because the initiative is a non-profit society, the businesses won’t get a direct return in dividends or things like that.
“What they’re hoping, just like us, is we’re going to increase the business, bring in industry to Cranbrook and increase jobs and employment,” he said, adding that with that comes an increased tax base and the helps to keep the tax rates level or even could bring them down.
“More people, more homes, more business — I mean everybody that’s in business could always use more customers, so if we’re successful on that, it all filters down through the community,” he said.