Squamish is open for business.
There has been no shortage of conversations about how to stimulate economic development in Squamish. There have been many suggestions- ranging from placing a piece of plywood on the highway scrawled with “Open for Business” on it, to targeting a heavy industry large employer to relocate here, and everything in between. The decision was made to take a strategic planned and phased approach. Before we started promoting ourselves as being Open for Business, we needed to ensure that the statement was indeed reality-based, as there was ample feedback to the contrary.
The “Service Squamish Initiative” was created in spring 2010 and Core Services Reviews were undertaken for each of the divisions within the District of Squamish organization. We were serious. We meant business, and we knew there was lots of room for improvement. In the Development Services department, it was apparent that we needed to make some dramatic improvements in how we responded to the needs of builders, developers and investors if we were to consider ourselves of ‘service’ to them. Previously, multiple guides, multiple application forms and information that contradicted itself confused and muddied the process.
The Land Development and Construction industries in particular, contribute significantly to the local economy and have dramatic spin-off effects. For many local small businesses to prosper and grow, it is imperative that our population increase. And, to a large extent, the success of our downtown depends on increased residential density in the immediate area. Getting on the right footing with these important industries is critical to our future growth and success.
Big flashy initiatives generally attract all the news headlines however it is often the work done in the background that makes the difference to the success of those flashy initiatives. I believe that the changes recently made in the District’s Development Services department to the Land Development Application process, although on the surface not attracting a lot of attention, is one of those initiatives that will be instrumental to the success of so many other big projects. The new application kit includes four simple documents, including an application guide, meeting request, document checklist and the application itself, and has been developed with the development community weighing in along the way.
We continue to move forward many individual initiatives within our economic development strategy, and in my mind, the new Land Development Application process lays the foundation for success of many of these initiatives. This dramatically simplified and streamlined process now justifies our claim to be- Open for Business.