COLUMN: In search of a prince or a billionaire

Once upon a time, a young woman of modest or destitute means went to a ball and danced with the prince.

Once upon a time, a young woman of modest or destitute means went to a ball and danced with the prince. The prince fell madly in love with the young woman. They were married and lived happily ever after.

It’s a familiar story, told many times with a few variations.

Add a fairy godmother and a glass slipper and it’s the story of Cinderella.

Set the story in modern times and replace the prince with a billionaire and it becomes a romance novel.

Change the setting to a reality television show and you have any season of The Bachelor, with 25 young women hoping to win the love of one man.

The European versions of the Cinderella story are from the 17th to the early 19th centuries. A Chinese version originated in the ninth century and an early Egyptian variant is more than 2,000 years old.

Such stories, while popular, are clearly in the realm of fiction.

There aren’t too many princes anymore, as only 27 monarchies exist worldwide today.

Billionaires are also in short supply, with fewer than 2,000 worldwide and just 39 in Canada.

Anyone waiting for a fairy tale hero could be in for a long, long wait.

Still, the Cinderella stories remain popular — and not just as romance fiction.

We even have our own community Cinderella story here in Summerland.

In our version, our handsome prince takes the form of a large business or government entity which falls madly in love with our community, giving us a much-needed economic boost. This saves us and lets us live in Summerland, happily ever after.

It’s a story we’ve retold time and again.

In the last few decades, the big projects have included the Wharton Street development concept, the Summerland Hills Golf Resort, the university campus and the provincial remand centre (the jail) and others.

In each case, the project was to bring us growth and jobs, but so far, none of the dreams have materialized.

Why do we long for someone from outside our community to come in with a big project? The answer may lie in Summerland’s past.

In the early 20th century, several wealthy Canadians invested heavily in Summerland and even owned orchard land here. Three of the land owners, Sir Edmund Osler, Sir Herbert Holt and R.B. Angus, were presidents of national banks. All three had become billionaires by 1913. This was a time when $1 billion had considerably more buying power than it has today.

Out-of-town money helped this community in its early years. Another infusion of cash could do wonders for us.

So far, we haven’t been able to attract the big projects, so in recent years, Summerland has looked elsewhere to bring in money.

A few years ago, there was a push to attract oil workers from Alberta, since they could enjoy their time off in Summerland. Today, there is an effort to attract prosperous young professionals from the Lower Mainland.

There’s nothing wrong with making efforts to attract people or businesses, but we need to ask ourselves what we have to offer.

Why would someone choose Summerland over Osoyoos, Penticton, Peachland or West Kelowna? What sets us apart?

A fairy tale ending won’t happen all by itself. And even with a lot of effort, there’s no guarantee the prince will fall in love with Cinderella.

Efforts to court out-of-town money are good, but what if the prince (or the billionaire or the business) doesn’t choose our community?

Can we still find a way to live happily ever after?

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.