Cranbrook looks to Nanaimo for economic development ideas

Could Nanaimo, B.C., help Cranbrook find ways to new economic viability?

Could Nanaimo B.C. help Cranbrook find ways to new economic viability?

Could Nanaimo B.C. help Cranbrook find ways to new economic viability?

Could Nanaimo B.C. help Cranbrook find ways to new economic viability? While the two cities may not seem to share too many characteristics, Coun. Angus Davis thought there were things to learn from the island city. Davis asked if there was some way to bring the same sort of success that Nanaimo had apparently seen in the technology sector to Cranbrook. He had read an article in the Vancouver Sun from June 30 that said Nanaimo has become a choice location for the high-tech sector.

City staff put together a report that found that while Nanaimo has the lowest unemployment rate in the province at 4.2 per cent, it comes as a result primarily of lower paying jobs.

“We have reviewed what Nanaimo has been doing and the report that was in the Vancouver Sun,” said Kevin Weaver, City of Cranbrook economic development officer. “It did talk about some technology companies that have targeted Nanaimo, but overall Nanaimo has seen a general increase in their employment numbers across the board, but it has been primarily in the lower rate of payroll.”

Weaver said the numbers didn’t show any significant increase in terms of the technology sectors.

“Interestingly, when you look at Nanaimo they started an aggressive strategy in the early ’90s and their model has been, albeit at a much larger scale than Cranbrook, pretty much consistent with the direction that Cranbrook has identified,” Weaver said.

That direction is a transition away from a reliance on commodity resource sectors and getting into more of a regional service centre, transportation hub, and also to build on the knowledge of these sectors.

Coun. Davis said the report was well done and gave some ideas for future economic prosperity.

“One thing maybe we could look at some time is we should be in line sometime to have the college turn into a university,” he said. “That’s a huge generator of economic viability, if we could make a bid to get the college university status.”

Davis said there are more and more facilities in B.C. that are receiving the status.

“We see a lot of people heading down to Lethbridge and places like that. If they had the same opportunities here I think they’d stay here.”

Weaver said there are people seeking that designation for the college, and said likely it would have to be a niche-type of institution.

The report also noted that Nanaimo is four times the size of Cranbrook and has had a head start, since the city’s economic development program began in the 1990s. Today, Nanaimo has a large regional hospital, Vancouver Island University, an international airport, an ocean harbour and regional offices for provincial and federal agencies.