Politicians urge regional economic development

Elected officials from Cranbrook, Kimberley and the RDEK dish on the challenges and opportunities in the East Kootenay.

The Cranbrook Chamber monthly luncheon included a panel discussion featuring Wendy Booth

The Cranbrook Chamber monthly luncheon included a panel discussion featuring Wendy Booth

Politicians urged engagement and participation in the community during a panel at the College of the Rockies on Wednesday afternoon as part of a monthly meeting of the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce membership.

The meeting, which coincided with the 9th annual Career and Job Fair, featured Cranbrook City Councillor Wes Graham, Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick, Chamber Executive Director David Hull and RDEK Vice Chair Wendy Booth in a panel discussion.

Led by Keith Powell, publisher of Koocanusa Publications Inc., the four lent their thoughts to the state of business locally and regionally and their visions for the future.

The panel focused on discussing the challenges and opportunities faced by businesses in municipalities and the regional district.

“What’s good for Cranbrook is good for Kimberley and vice versa,” said McCormick. “We only have to look back at the closure of the Sullivan Mine. Everybody talks about how hard that hit Kimberley, but I guarantee you the closure of that mine hit Cranbrook almost as hard as it hit Kimberley.

“We need to be proactive. We need to determine what types of industry are suited for here. We have to hop on a plane, got to Vancouver or Calgary and we have to go wherever we need to go in order to get in front of the people who are making those kinds of decisions.

“We sell them on coming out here.”

There seemed to be a consensus from all four panellists that there needs to be a regional strategy where municipalities work in unison with the regional district.

“The cities aren’t getting together with the RD on a regular basis,” said Hull. “Frankly, they’re not serving the taxpayer well, I’ll be blunt to say it. The East Kootenay needs to work together cohesively and have a regional plan, a regional development plan, a regional land-use plan.”

Operating and creating policy from a regional standpoint sometimes clashes with the desires of individual municipal councils across the district, said Booth.

“When you come to the regional district, you’re told right from the very beginning that you’re there to look at the best interests of the region, not the best interest of your community,” said Booth.

“So you have to put on your regional hat and some of the mayors have challenges with that.”

Both Graham and McCormick outlined their visions for Cranbrook and Kimberley moving forward.

“We need to create an open-for-business city,” said Graham. “Now, whether that’s business or residential, we need to be proactive in keeping our policies up to date, our bylaws in check and really listen to both business and residents.”

McCormick—touching on a theme shared by all panellists—is to attract industry to Kimberley and the surrounding region.

“So really, my vision for not just Kimberley, but for the area, is for this region to behave as one and to pool our resources to achieve things that as individuals, we cannot,” McCormick said.

“So my first goal associated with that is to land the first substantial industry offering—an industry that has well-paying jobs, that you don’t necessarily need a university or a college education in order to land those jobs, certainly not all of them.

“And I hope we can achieve that in the next four years.”

Following the luncheon, the floor opened up to high school students, who were able to check out dozens of booths from various businesses and employers for the career fair.