Mark Laver started as Castlegar and district’s economic development manager in November 2017. The pilot project that created his position ends this month. Photo: Chelsea Novak

Changes for Castlegar’s economic development program

Next step is five year strategic plan.

As Castlegar’s three-year economic development pilot program ends, the Castlegar and District Economic Development Committee is developing a new five-year strategic plan — minus a key player.

The end of the pilot program means the expiration of economic development manager Mark Laver’s contract. Laver delivered the pilot in collaboration with the community, funders, Chamber of Commerce, and Destination Castlegar.

During Laver’s tenure as economic development manager he gave many presentations to city council on how things were improving in the local economy.

“These are certainly exciting times,” Laver told council in November. “There are new businesses popping up absolutely everywhere.”

RELATED: Castlegar’s economy growing

Laver has led the department into the creation and implementation of a number of new projects and initiatives including marketing, brochures, magazine features, a fact guide, an ongoing inventory and Twitter account listing businesses and lands for sale, a newsletter, new website, postcard campaigns and the Castlegar Explorers App.

Laver has also worked on funding for a feasibility study that will look into the possibility of an East/West Kootenay train.

Castlegar and District Economic Development also hosted the sold-out State of the Kootenays economic forum in 2019.

RELATED: Kootenay economy looking good

RELATED: Castlegar economic development program helping businesses succeed

The economic development program and Laver have been instrumental in helping a number of new businesses set up shop in Castlegar.

Some business owners Laver helped along the way are disappointed the new economic development plan does not include him at the helm. The next stage — developing the strategic plan — does not include an economic development manager position. However, once the new plan is in place, the goal is that there will be a permanent economic development position created.

“Mark was a huge part in making The Humble Bean a reality,” said the coffee shop’s owner Kimberly Mamos. “His knowledge, guidance and genuine passion to build a strong economy for Castlegar has helped us build the foundation of our business.

“I believe Mark’s many achievements and contributions are a large part of Castlegar’s current and future economic success. We feel his departure is a loss to the community and we will miss him.”

RELATED: New coffee shop opens in downtown Castlegar

“Mark recognized the great potential Castlegar had for economic growth and worked diligently at attracting businesses that Castlegar really needed,” said Dr. Sandy Battista of Head 2 Toe Holistic Health Clinic.

“And those businesses are thriving as a result of having the right business, in the right place, at the right time. Mark spread his reach, equitably, amongst the different areas of Castlegar and accomplished a tremendous amount of economic development in a short period of time. Mark’s hard work and dedication will be missed and leaves big shoes to fill.”

The Chamber of Commerce says the new economic development strategic plan will be aggressive, ambitious and provocative in identifying long-term economic development goals for Castlegar and district. The plan will include a multi-year, tactical implementation plan focused on marketing, investment, and business attraction, retention and expansion.

“As the [pilot] program draws to an end, we’re proud of the successes and look forward to using this work as the platform for developing a long-term strategy,” Chamber of Commerce executive director Tammy Verigin-Burk said in a news release.

Public engagement regarding the new plan will begin in early 2020 and the findings will be used to establish an ongoing economic development program by fall.

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