Grassroots Economic Development Benefits Island Municipality
The Challenge: But Who is Going to Do it?
In 2010, the updated Bowen Island Municipality Official Community Plan recommended that an Economic Development Plan be completed. The Action Plan for the Bowen Island Muncipality evolved from a process that began in August 2012. The Municipality recognized the need for a strategy to help boost and reinvigorate the local economy. However, the local government budget did not allow for the contracting of consultants or employment of qualified staff to address the issue.
The Solution: Home Grown Experts
Recognizing the talent pool at hand, the Municipality struck a volunteer committee of qualified, enthusiastic and committed islanders to act in an advisory capacity to Council. This included seven members with diverse backgrounds and expertise as well as two local Councillors.
The newly formed Economic Development Committee (EDC) was responsible for planning, supporting and facilitating economic development. The EDC provided information and advice to Council about opportunities as well as challenges. It was also tasked with the creation of an Economic Development Action Plan for Bowen Island. Following months of public consultation, information gathering, meetings with consultants and other professionals, the EDC completed the plan in January 2014. Subsequently, the Mayor and Council received and endorsed the Action Plan, along with a proposed budget for implementation. The EDC has engaged in educating the public on how economic development contributes to the standard of living, health and wellness of the community. It is now focusing on implementing the plan.
Benefits: Upgrades All Around
- The public is better educated and engaged in lively discussion about how economic development contributes to a livable, vibrant community
- Other communities are taking note, thanks to the chair’s presentation at various off-island events
- The EDC has established a positive lens and policy to assist with processing of rezoning applications. A number of developments and zoning applications are underway
- Upgraded telecommunications through Shaw and Telus have improved internet connectivity in Snug Cove and other areas of the island. This is significant for home-based businesses and residents who rely on state-of-the-art technology to stay informed and competitive.
- Achievement of the “low hanging fruit” such as the establishment of the Tourism Bowen grassroots organization, and a preliminary review of the Community Tourism Plan
- An EDC subcommittee launched a community branding process in summer 2016 that has proven to be remarkably successful
Outcomes: Grassroots Economic Development
- Development of a dedicated and qualified volunteer EDC that engaged with the public and produced an Action Plan. That plan is now being implemented and has produced results. The EDC has further evolved to responding to development requests and zoning applications.
- Establishment of Tourism Bowen, a grassroots organization
- Development of a Community Tourism Plan
- Review of the Official Community Plan with a lens to enable community development
- Upgraded telecommunications to improve connectivity on the Island, a critical service for home-based businesses and residents
- Relationship building with other communities
Lessons Learned: Working Together
- The lack of funding can be overcome when qualified people are willing to volunteer their services and expertise
- Public engagement is key to ensuring the community has a voice, and that the resultant action plan has the support needed for implementation
- Building positive relationships can invigorate communities with the promotion of local and regional economies
January 10, 2017