PORT McNEILL—Jobs, infrastructure and amenities are among the priorities highlighted by local residents in a recent economic development survey, consultant Bert Zethof noted in two workshop sessions held last week.
Nearly 50 residents turned out Sept. 29 and 30 for the Port McNeill 2020 workshops, the final public presentation before Zethof and local liaison Annemarie Koch produce a draft Community Economic Plan to present council.
“I’m seeing a big wish list,” local B&B owner Karen Stewart said after Zethof shared the results of the survey. “Of course, we’re not going to get everything on the list.”
Through a PowerPoint presentation, Zethof graphed the priorities of more than 300 residents and 30 business who responded to the online survey.
Topics covered ranged well beyond direct economic impact, and included industry and business, promotion, community infrastructure, tourism, resident support services, public and private spaces and sense of community to goals and priorities.
“You might not see an economic benefit in this category,” Zethof said while displaying a graph on Sense of Community during the Sept. 29 workshop. “But it addresses quality of life, which brings more people who want to come and raise families in the community.”
The Zethof Consulting Group was contracted, with the help of a grant from Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET), to develop the Community Economic Plan. Zethof and Koch began the process with individual interviews late last winter, then moved to public meetings to gather additional input.
The community survey, and last week’s workshops, were the final opportunity for residents to offer their input.
The survey results shared in the workshops were shown as rankings within each category, with further breakdowns of percentages among age groups and a separate percentage for business respondents.
“None of these are bad ideas,” Zethof said. “Some are just ranked higher than others. If you have the resources and energy, you should do them all.”
Response was lively, with participants seeking a way to balance the need for more economic opportunity, training and education with public infrastructure, amenities and recreation.
“It’s a bit of chicken and egg,” said Scott Mitchell. “You don’t come here because it’s a nice town. You come here because you need a job with a good income that will allow you to raise a family.”
While most participants appreciated the process and joined in the discussion, there was dissent.
“I think what you’re doing is drivel,” local businessman Bruce Jackman said as he rose to depart midway through the workshop. “How does 244 respondents (to the survey) represent a community of 3,000? This doesn’t address labour laws, environmental laws or the regulatory bureaucracy; there’s nothing relevant here.”