PORT McNEILL—Efforts to create an economic strategic plan for the Town took a big step forward last week when council approved a proposal by the Zethof Group to help formulate the plan.
The $50,000 plan is jointly funded by Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) and the Town of Port McNeill. A draft plan is tentatively expected to be completed and submitted for a community workshop by the end of May, 2014. An open house will be hosted to provide additional public review and input no later than July, and the final Strategic Plan will be announced in August.
Council had to sift through a surprising 24 responses to the Town’s Request for Proposal, which was drafted after ICET committed to matching funding for the plan.
They were won over by Bert Zethof, who personally visited the town and spent several days in the town.
“I’m happy with what we chose,” coun. Shirley Ackland said. “I think (Zethof) had a personal touch. I like that he drove up and talked to us. Many of the reports added that piece into what they were going to offer, but he had already done that on his own time and his own dime.
“And he wasn’t just talking with us. He was talking in the community and finding information out about Port McNeill.”
Zethof, a former staffer with B.C.’s Ministry of Economic Development before forming his own firm, will employ Sointula’s Annemarie Koch as a subcontractor providing research, local expertise and community engagement support.
Mayor Gerry Furney and councillors Ackland, Grant Anderson, Chris Sharpe and Gaby Wickstrom will serve as steering committee.
Pat English, Economic Development Director for the Regional District of Mount Waddington, unveiled the results of a survey of the North Island’s Grade 11 and 12 students during a presentation to council. English also outlined the schedule for a series of development workshops beginning later this month and invited council to take part.
Project Comeback, initiated by English’s predecessor, Neil Smith, in 2013, is an effort to determine what causes young adults to leave the North Island after completing school and the economic and social determinants that might best draw them back to work and raise families in the region.
“The end point is to develop some strategies to strengthen youth retention,” English told council. “This is a very important issue and, given that you’re currently engaged in an economic development strategy process, I think the timing is well-suited.”
English previously had appeared before Port Hardy council, and the upcoming workshop schedule seems to have included some of the input he received from that body. Two separate workshops will be held, the first at North Island Secondary School in late February and the other at Port Hardy Secondary in early March. Dates and times will be announced.