The last public Port of Potential Economic Development Strategy meeting was held Dec. 14 at the Port Alice Community Centre. About 40 community members were present at the meeting to review and provide feedback on the draft Economic Development strategy.Colleen Hamilton, a planning associate for EcoPlan International the company handling development of the strategy, chaired the meeting and engaged the audience with worksheets to fill out, as well as a power-point presentation.Hamilton presented a list of 39 actions and strategies to improve Port Alice’s economy which had been whittled down from 150 ideas.
Some of the actions and strategies include optimizing tax rates, continuing to work on high speed internet, continuing discussions with Neucel Specialty Cellulose, supporting job training, improving the community’s online presence, promoting Port Alice as a marine fuelling and supply hub, developing industrial tourism, continuing marina upgrades, supporting the development of an outdoor school, promoting a buy local campaign, and to encourage volunteerism in the community. Hamilton also handed out a review worksheet which asked for people’s general thoughts on the strategies and actions in the plan, if they felt the plan captures the most important actions, and, if not, what was missing, and what they felt was the #1 priority.
Once everyone had filled out the worksheet, Hamilton listened to comments from the audience which included ideas on senior housing, making Port Alice a place for young retirees, and needing a set population to sustain the community, whether the mill starts up again or not.Finally, Hamilton handed out an implementation worksheet where residents could check off areas they had interest in such as starting a business or a community garden; starting a civic volunteer group or a tourism committee; promoting Port Alice on social media; buying local; being friendly to visitors; or picking up pieces of litter around town.”We were really excited to see how many people came out and took the time to carefully consider the draft plan and provide feedback,” said Hamilton. “People were generally happy with the draft actions, with a few suggestions for changes that will be taken into account. Dozens of community members volunteered to help out with implementation, which will be a great support to the Village and help ensure that things move faster,” Hamilton said.
Mayor Jan Allen agreed.”The residents were keen on looking at our vision that shows the current potential of Port Alice and the actions in the first 100 days; short term (zero to two years); and medium to long term (three to five years) once the “Port of Potential Strategy” has been released in early 2016,” said Allen.The vision for the future is clear, “Port Alice is a vibrant, inclusive, engaged community with a healthy diverse economy, based on a range of businesses particularly tourism-related and industries and capitalizing on the Village’s attractive oceanfront setting”. “It was clear the actions for the strategy are all necessary for our positive, successful vision for the Village of Port Alice,” Allen said.
The process of creating the Economic Development Strategy has been “both exciting and exhilarating” and “includes trepidation as we look forward to the release of “Port of Potential”, Allen said. The report will be released in late January, 2016.