Building economic resilience in 100 Mile House is “a marathon, not a sprint” according to the district’s long-awaited Economic Development Strategy, published last week.
The final report, endorsed by council June 8, is a culmination of more than a year of research and consultation, and lays the groundwork for the future economic health of the district and its businesses.
The report makes note of significant economic challenges faced by the District over the past several years – the 2017 wildfires, mill closures in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, among them. In addition to providing dozens of strategies to support and attract business to 100 Mile House, the report also provides guidance for being better prepared for future economic disruptions.
Coun. Maureen Pinkney described the Economic Development Strategy as being “very involved,” noting there were more than 400 responses to an online survey and more than 50 local and regional stakeholders taking part in interviews.
“Our major outcomes from the project show that we’re going to have to foster an entrepreneurial environment, by engaging our business community and using our tourist assets,” Pinkney said at the June 8 council meeting. “100 Mile House council will need to support concrete steps to assist and implement these strategies. There’s no silver bullets that will solve our community challenges.”
One such challenge highlighted in the report – which was funded by both the provincial and federal governments – is insufficient support for the business sector. It describes smaller business owners as facing greater difficulty accessing succession planning, mentorship, expansion, human resources and customer-base access.
The report notes more than 60 per cent of survey respondents said they shop outside of 100 Mile House at least once a month – spending more than $150 – noting the reason is that the services or products they’re seeking are not available locally.
A handful of strategies are included to help encourage local shopping, including the establishment of a retail assessment program, increased retail capacity and an expanded retail sector.
The support of retail diversity and opportunities is one of six “pillars” identified in the report; others include the development of a comprehensive economic toolbox, an inclusive and effective economic development program and disaster preparation.
Another pillar – creating a desirable community for working and living – is a “big opportunity” for 100 Mile House, according to EDCD Consulting’s Dale Wheeldon, who helped compile the strategy.
“This is something that is a real opportunity here, especially with what happened over the past year with the pandemic,” Wheeldon told council. “We’re starting to see people who perhaps would not have been interested in moving to the community, realizing that they can work anywhere. This pillar here is really about positioning 100 Mile House to be that kind of community that will attract those remote workers and entrepreneurs.”
While the Economic Development Strategy is specific to 100 Mile House, Wheeldon pointed out that its success will be a joint effort with community partners such as the Cariboo Regional District, Canim Lake Band, Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin and the provincial government.
“You’re going to play the leading role in this strategy, but you can’t do it alone,” he said.
And despite successful public outreach throughout the process, Wheeldon said reaching unanimous agreement on the final strategies was impossible.
“You’re going to have to reach out and increase the levels of communication,” he said. “Communication is key to making sure that even those who might not be in unanimous agreement feel like they’re part of the solution. Implementing these recommendations will take many years of commitment to community involvement.”
Mayor Mitch Campsall described the process of working with EDCD Consulting “absolutely amazing” and noted the consultants told him the response from the public while compiling research was better than expected.
“They’ve never had such a large amount of input in such a small community,” Campsall said. “Our community wants to be better and do better.”
To read the Economic Development Strategy in its entirety, visit the District’s website at www.100milehouse.com