COLUMN: Stakeholders meet for development workshop

A few weeks ago, the chamber had the opportunity to host an Economic Development Building Blocks Workshop.

A few weeks ago, the chamber had the opportunity to host an Economic Development Building Blocks Workshop that was presented and facilitated by staff and consultants from the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training.

Chamber board members were joined at the workshop by Summerland mayor, councillors and district staff, business and community members of the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development and other regional EcDev partners.

The workshop gave us the opportunity to look at our community together through an economic development lens and discuss the best prospects for growth and the beginnings of a community vision.

It was particularly helpful to brainstorm together to create a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) document that looked at our economic advantages in Summerland.

In addition to our central location, beauty and lifestyle, we recognized that community engagement, our resident talent pool, proximity to the Research Station, and an owned utility were also significant advantages that could be leveraged.

We also needed to acknowledge where we are at a disadvantage relative to other communities.

Affordable housing, the attraction of skilled labour, a clear community identity, community visibility and aging community facilities were recognized as areas where we need to keep working.

Throughout the workshop, we created a number of useful tools and information that we can use to move forward.

In addition to the SWOT, we developed a list of projects and initiatives to engage our business members and help them grow and we achieved a better understanding of how ready the community is for investment.

The workshop also provided a number of examples and best practices that other small BC communities have implemented to work toward their own community goals.

This is proof that small can still be mighty and unique ideas can succeed.

During this past week, some of the same individuals joined us here at the chamber for a webinar specifically around how a community can fill empty downtown buildings.

While not every idea will fit in Summerland, some of them can certainly be implemented as we work together to fill key spots downtown.

The best part of working together across all these groups is knowing that we all have the same goal — appropriate growth for our community while maintaining the characteristics that we all love.

We always appreciate your feedback.  Please contact me at cpetkau@summerlandchamber.com  or our chamber president, Erick Thompson, at president@summerlandchamber.com.

Christine Petkau is the executive director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Summerland. She can be reached at cpetkau@summerlandchamber.com.