RDEK updated on rural development projects

Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition does much more than tackling the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

The Southeast Interior Beetle Action Coalition made an appearance at Friday’s board meeting, as Gordon Borgstrom touted the organization’s success in tackling the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic.

Borgstrom, a consultant with SIBAC, noted that the RDEK is just one of nine regional districts and six Tribal Councils that have banded together to tackle not just the pine beetle epidemic, but also to develop, support and fund projects and initiatives that will stimulate and advance rural development in the southern interior.

Borgstrom appeared before the board for two purposes:

•To ensure the RDEK’s future membership within SIBAC.

•To seek a $5,000 annual grant over the next three years to help pay for administrative costs.

Following his presentation, the RDEK board wasted no time in approving the funding for the organization.

Rob Gay, who chairs the RDEK Board, also sits as the treasurer with SIBAC, and is enthusiastic about the work that’s being done.

SIBAC started with a pool of $3 million in funding, which they’ve been able to leverage with various other levels of government organizations into roughly $16 million that’s been used for studies and projects within the Southern Interior.

There are a few initiatives Gay is keeping his eye on.

“One is called unleashing local capital, where people in our communities potentially have some funds that they would like to invest in their community and we’ve seen this in some communities,” he said.

“The situation may be you have a business in a smaller community that the folks are getting older and they need to sell the business, it’s a large employer in town and nobody has come in to buy it up, because it’s a dying town.

“The community gets behind it, puts some money in and runs it as a not-for-profit society.”

Gay cited an example brought up by Borgstrom as a group of farmers in Alberta bought a CPR rail spur that was going to be scrapped and used it to move their agricultural products and as a tourist attraction.

Another project includes getting interns or co-op students who are studying rural economic development to move to smaller towns to help get projects off the ground.

Borgstrom brought up some of SIBAC’s rural development initiatives which include helping kickstart green energy projects, wood waste to rural heat and rural housing and seniors services.

Borgstrom also touted the provincial government’s creation of a Rural Advisory Committee and a rural dividend program that will provide $75 million in funding over three years.

Gay noted that SIBAC will be pursuing money out of the rural dividend program and that SIBAC has roughly $1.6 million left .

For the future, SIBAC will continue to focus on rural development policies in conjunction with provincial and federal governments and continue with developing projects that benefit the Southern Interior.