New economic development society getting down to work

  • Jan. 9, 2008 10:00 a.m.

By Alex Rinfret–A newly-formed society is hoping to hire an economic development officer to help the islands through the coming months of transition as the land use plan takes effect. Port Clements mayor Cory Delves, who has been selected as chair of the Misty Isles Economic Development Society, said the brand new group will hold its first meeting in Port on Monday (Jan. 14). There are 15 positions on the board. Five of them have been filled by the three islands mayors and two regional district directors, and the other 10 spots by islanders representing local economic sectors, Mr. Delves said, such as wood processing and fishing. Not all positions have been filled yet, but they should be by Monday. “We’ve got a pretty good mix of individuals and it’s going to be really exciting to get it off the ground,” he said. The society doesn’t have any funding yet, but Mr. Delves said members are hopeful that money will be coming from the provincial government. He estimated that it would cost roughly $250,000 a year to run an economic development office with a full-time officer. The economic development society was established as a result of the land use planning process, Mr. Delves said. The provincial government and the Council of the Haida Nation set up a community viability steering group a couple of years ago, which hired consultants to write a report. One of that report’s conclusions was that the islands communities very much need some kind of economic development planning. In September, the CHN and Lands Minister Pat Bell’s office invited the five elected mayors and directors to Victoria, and asked them to list their three priorities for community viability. Mr. Delves said these three priorities are an economic development organization, a community forest with the same volume as that given to the CHN, and a community land bank which would allow the villages and areas to access crown land for further development. They also asked for the provincial government to help them out with two studies – one on transportation, including how the islands can best take advantage of the new container port in Prince Rupert, and one on what food processing opportunities exist here. The provincial government has not yet responded to the islanders’ priorities, he said, but has provided two resource people who have helped get the economic development society organized over the past couple of months. “There does seem to be that commitment from the provincial government,” he said. The five islanders have also signed an accord with the CHN about economic development, Mr. Delves said. The Haida communities already have some economic development infrastructure in place, and the CHN recognized that the non-Haida communities needed some assistance in that area, he said. Mr. Delves said the new society is “a tremendous opportunity for all the communities” and that it has already brought the non-Haida communities together. “It has certainly pulled the five communities together,” he said. “There’s a common front in terms of what we think is important.” The society’s first meeting Monday night will not be open to the public, but Mr. Delves said members of the public will be welcome at future meetings.

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