Building on existing strengths is a key theme in a new five-year economic development plan for Salmon Arm.
“Salmon Arm has a lot of strength that directly ties into its ability to attract the creative class,” said Lana Fitt, manager of Salmon Arm Economic Development.
She explains that the ‘creative class,’ coined by author Richard Florida, is everything from engineers and educators to health-care professionals and people in the arts.
“Their primary economic function is to create new ideas and new technologies. The concept relates to the shift from what we’ve seen in the global economy – from farms to factories to innovation.”
Another common thread in the plan that covers 2013 to 2017 is the Alberta marketplace, she explained, both in terms of opportunities and challenges.
Along with the two common threads, the plan focuses on three key areas: skill development, a sustainable economic base and service delivery.
The number one priority in skill development is the downtown community campus project. Acquiring a site is the next step.
Another is implementing a talent-attraction strategy, Fitt said, with luring long-distance workers to live here as one focus.
“We’re seeing that happen already in our community. We’re looking at things to support that kind of worker – investigating scheduled flights, looking at developing our existing airport so it meets the needs of residents and businesses. Our focus will be on helping the airport society and the city develop that strategy…”
The need for a scheduled flight at the airport has been brought up by a number of businesses, particularly in the industrial park, Fitt said.
Under the ‘sustainable economic base’ category in the plan, Fitt said five categories are listed. They are: 1. facilitating growth in the manufacturing sector by strategies which include developing the airport, creating an industrial taxation incentive program that the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society would like to see council adopt next year, finalizing signage and a directory of the industrial park, working on infrastructure and programs to support the industrial park such as public transportation, and investigating joint marketing and collaborative bidding.
2. Developing local agricultural opportunities, which include partnering with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District in preparing a regional agricultural strategy – with the downtown campus a key part, and implementing a Product of the Shuswap marketing campaign. For instance, stickers for apples have been created.
“We’ve just started rolling it out on the retail side. We’re now looking to expand to other sectors of our economy. “
3. Positioning Salmon Arm as a retail and commercial destination.
“That speaks to the need for both big-box stores and smaller independents,” Fitt said. “Our goal is to minimize consumer leakage as well as attract out-of-town shoppers.”
She said EDS has looked at items missing such as household goods and children’s clothing and has been “doing specific retail attraction with specific retailers.” She declined to say which retailers, but said the efforts have not yet been successful.
4. Increasing tourism activity, which includes supporting existing organizations and focusing on the need for partnerships and package development.
5. Developing an investment attraction marketing strategy, with two focuses. One is identifying businesses that complement existing ones. The second focus includes developing a DVD, prospectus, location guide and website enhancements. Fitt said the earlier plan to develop a DVD with the Today in America show was dropped, but the plan for a DVD remains.
The final key area outlined in the plan is service development, which includes the continuation of EDS’s ongoing projects and services. Under communications, EDS is planning to utilize media such as Facebook, Twitter, an e-newsletter and presentations.
Overall, Fitt says she’s pleased with the new plan.
“There is a lot of great work going on in economic development within the community. Our focus is to support and build on our strengths. Most notably, our community strength is quality of life.”
EDS developed the new five-year plan in collaboration with one of the largest economic development consulting firms in Canada, Fitt says, which brought a global perspective and experience with communities of a similar size. The consultants charged $20,000.
The society also gathered local input and reviewed many existing reports.
The new plan will be on the society’s website in the new year. The last five-year plan covered 2007 to 2011.