COLUMN: Local economic development in B.C.

In June I had the opportunity to attend the B.C. Economic Development Association’s 2016 Summit held in Richmond.

In June I had the opportunity to attend the B.C. Economic Development Association’s 2016 Summit held in Richmond.

One of the sessions introduced the results of the 2016 survey of economic development in B.C.

This survey included 414 responses from communities throughout B.C. and was sponsored by the BCEDA, the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Economic Development Division.

Some of the responses were particularly interesting from our chamber’s perspective as we partner with the District of Summerland to deliver economic development initiatives in our community.

While we’ve been doing that for a number of years, the survey showed that these partnerships are becoming more common in B.C.

In 2009 the survey showed that four per cent of communities used the services of their local chambers to undertake economic development work.

In 2016 that number has climbed substantially to 32 per cent overall, with midsize communities of 5,000 to 50,000 being even higher at 38 per cent.

Those in favour of having economic development delivered by an organization separate from the city, whether chambers or other organizations, suggested that the arms-length relationship was non-partisan and provided the opportunity to build trust with the business community.

The report indicated that local business retention and expansion activities continue to be the top priority for economic development efforts at 65 per cent, followed by tourism and cultural activities at 48 per cent, and attracting external industry, businesses and resources.

“Specific to BRE efforts, the three most commonly identified activities are community profiles, a developed website and personal contact with existing businesses. Other common BRE activities are business walks programs, promotional brochures and “Buy Local” events, the last of which saw a substantial increase” from  the 2009 survey.

To read Summerland’s Investment and Relocation Guide, view our promotional videos, check the reports from our 2015 and 2016 business walks or check out our #discoverhome local shopping campaign, please visit

To read the province’s report in its entirety please visit

Christine Petkau is the executive director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce.