Summerland near top of B.C. study

A comparison of B.C. communities puts Summerland near the top in terms of several socio-economic factors.

A comparison of B.C. communities puts Summerland near the top in terms of several socio-economic factors.

The study of 77 communities, prepared by B.C. Stats, places Summerland’s overall socio-economic index ranking second in the province, just behind West Vancouver-Bowen Island.

In several of the individual categories, Summerland was ahead of all communities.

The Regional Socio-Economic Index place Summerland in second place.

The indicators in the study were the Index of Human Economic Hardship, the Index of Crime, the Index of Health Problems and the Index of Education Concerns. Two other indicators, Children at Risk and Youth at Risk, were also included.

The economic hardship category examined the number of those receiving economic assistance.

The crime index examined property crimes, violent crimes and other criminal activity.

The health index looked at numerous physical and mental health factors including infant mortality, life expectancy at birth and teen pregnancy rates, as well as suicide and homicide statistics.

The education figures examined graduation rates and post-secondary education, as well as achievement of those within the school system.

“When viewed together, these indices provide a summary measure of the relative successes and challenges across all regions of the province,” the study stated. “The indices are intended only to flag regions that may be experiencing higher levels of socio-economic stress relative to neighbouring areas. By themselves they don’t tell us why a particular community or region is doing poorly or well, but rather form a necessary first step in determining the causal factors underlying the observed conditions.”

Arlene Fenrich, president of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce, said the report can help to promote the community.

“We hope investors and business owners will take note of these facts about our community,” she said. “We recognize how important measurements of this kind are when business owners are considering opening a new establishment or relocating a business and employees to a new community.”

Christine Petkau, manager of the chamber, said the report and Summerland’s standing can be used to help promote the community.

“These are the kinds of things that attract people to the community,” she said.

Despite the positive report, the downtown businesses have been struggling in recent years and there are still vacant buildings along Main Street and Victoria Road.

“The fact that we have some gaps on Main Street is problematic,” Petkau said.

She added that the quality of life factors in the report and the idyllic setting will help to bring people to the community.

“We are the town authors in the last 100 years have created,” she said.

While the study paints a positive picture of Summerland, Mayor Janice Perrino said it does not show all aspects of the community.

“It does not tell our true economic state,” she said. “Our downtown has struggled over the years. We are still lacking horribly in affordable housing.”

In addition, she said it is a struggle for the municipality to take on various infrastructure projects because of the costs involved.

She  added that report should serve as an encouragement to the community, since it identifies some of Summerland’s strengths.

“We can take a look at what we’re doing well and how to maintain it,” she said. “We have to make sure we are on the path of securing a good, healthy long-term future.”