District of Squamish officials are eyeing charting a course for long-term economic development.
At Tuesday’s (Feb. 5) Economic Development Standing Committee, economic sustainability coordinator Dan McRae presented what it would take to create a municipal commercial and industrial strategy.
The document would cover everything from a market analysis to emerging trends and a comprehensive land inventory. The District of Maple Ridge recently completed its economic development strategy at a price tag of approximately $70,000.
Piecing together a similar plan for Squamish would likely cost $30,000 to $40,000, McRae said. That cost would include up to $15,000 for a district-wide land inventory that incorporates items such as zoning and municipal sub-area plans, he noted.
Such a strategy is exciting news for Squamish, forestry consultant Eric Andersen said. It would add clarity to terminology and give industries a better understanding of where the community is headed, he said.
After reviewing the municipality’s industrial and commercial zones, forestry stakeholders had 114 hectares worth of question marks, Andersen said, noting the industry is concerned about the district’s future economic growth strategies.
Before district staff roll up their sleeves in creating a commercial and industrial strategy, municipal officials need to understand what the end goal is, independent business consultant Auli Parvianen said. Officials should examine what kind of businesses they want to attract, the 2011 Squamish mayoral candidate said.
“We really need to zero in on what are our quick wins,” Parvianen added.
District staff will look to the economic committee for guidance on such goals, Coun. Patricia Heintzman said. Backed by the committee, Heintzman moved that the creation of a commercial and industrial strategy, including a comprehensive land inventory, be forwarded to council for consideration during the district’s budget process.
District staff have been simplifying online tools already available to businesses, McRae said. At the district website — www.squamish.ca — officials have created a district property listing highlighting vacant industrial land.
The website’s Economic Development tab displays three industrial and commercial property listings, including the Opportunities B.C. database listing 23 Squamish properties.
“If someone wants to sell a small business, again, this is the place,” McRae said, noting real estate agents wanting to join the database should get in touch with the municipality.
The site is an example of district staff using existing information to create easy search tools to help people find vacant land, McRae said.