The Castlegar News asked community leaders to share what they see in store for Castlegar in 2019. Here is what Castlegar economic development manager Mark Laver had to say.
Castlegar News: What are the major economic development issues facing Castlegar in 2019?
Laver: Growth. Assuming a stable global, provincial and local economy, Castlegar and area may experience growth issues. Concerted efforts in the past few years have seen a number of new businesses locate in the region. The inventory of available space across commercial and industrial land is shrinking. Attention needs to be paid as to how growth is to be managed, encouraged, and planned.
Attention also needs to be paid to how the region positions itself as technology plays an increasing role in our lives. There are a number of businesses in the area doing exciting work in the field of technology, building and encouraging a workforce to take advantage of these innovations will be crucial beyond 2019. Economic development has a number of technology-related initiatives in the planning stages for the year ahead.
The airport continues to work toward solutions for our unique weather conditions. This will not be a quick fix, but the effort is being made to find a solution that works.
With growth comes a need for housing. Not just single-family homes, but smaller apartments, condominiums and seniors’ housing too. The cost of a single-family home continues to increase, and rental vacancy rates are low throughout much of the West Kootenay. The economic development office has already reached out to developers from B.C.’s Interior and will look further afield for businesses to fill these needs going forward.
CN: From an economic development perspective, how has the community become better in the last year? What opportunities and challenges does it still face in the new year?
Laver: This has been the first full year of an economic development role for the area since 1992. We believe that we are starting to gain some traction in that the area has many advantages for businesses to locate here and for families to move here. Under the stewardship of the chamber of commerce, Economic Development and Destination Marketing are working together to promote our area. The area is full of economic opportunity. With increased technology solutions and the nature of work, it is no longer necessary for people to live in high-cost locations just to work. Many people in the West Kootenay are employed in the forestry industry. The economic development office has plans to highlight this economic strength in the coming year to potentially attract businesses that are complementary to this industry.
CN: Where are we likely to see economic growth and development for Castlegar in 2019?
Laver: The majority of economic growth will come from the retail sector, across a wide variety of businesses.
CN: More generally, what do you think is in store for Castlegar for 2019?
Laver: More positive exposure for the area. This is a fantastic place to live, raise a family, be a part of a community and work/own a business. Economic Development has a number of exciting new initiatives in 2019. To begin, we are going to be working with a few schools to increase the exposure of technology to students. We are also planning to host a conference, and conduct a number of economic analyses that will set up the area for growth in the years to come.