Brian Smith has taken over the helm at Community Futures Sunshine Coast, armed with some plans to improve the services they provide locally.
The new executive director has been living on the Coast with his family for about seven years now, but he has been commuting to Vancouver to work in a community economic development capacity in the Downtown Eastside.
“I was doing a lot of similar work there, sort of small business lending, community economic development projects and some work with Vancity Credit Union,” Smith said.
While working in Vancouver, Smith also seized the opportunity for a part-time position at Community Futures.
“I’ve worked here since November as a part-time business advisor and loans for three days a week, so everyone was fairly familiar with me by the time this posting came up,” he said.
He was thrilled to be hired as executive director in May, just after his wife Melissa gave birth to their third child Winifred.
“The timing is just really great,” he said. “What’s more is I love the people we work with, both our board and our volunteers and the staff are really great to work with and they have been very welcoming and also really open and excited about what I’m bringing, so that feels good.”
Smith said he’d like to take Community Futures in a bit of a different direction in the coming months.
“The big things we do are we have a loan portfolio for small to medium-sized businesses and then we do a bunch of business advising and then we do community economic development projects like the day float and things like that,” Smith explained. “In the past what’s happened is these have been sort of very separate activities. We do the community economic development project but it might not necessarily have anything to do with this financing that we do.
“What I’d like to do is sort of push this all together so that we’re doing community economic development projects that we can lend into and that we can help finance. So it’s really to help leverage the financial assets that we have for community economic development rather than having them separate.”
He sees local projects around agriculture, affordable housing and sustainable transportation as just a few that could benefit from the new model.
“Projects that have real community benefits could be where we could be investing our loan money so I’m excited to develop some of those kinds of projects,” Smith said.
Community Futures is a non-profit organization that has a volunteer board, but is staffed by business professionals. Their mandate is to provide a variety of different support services to those wanting to start, expand, franchise or sell a business locally.
They also offer things like facility rentals and video conferencing and they help people secure loans to start business endeavors. Community Futures can also help people write up their business plans and help with market research.
Community Futures is part of a national economic development program, funded by Western Economic Diversification Canada.
To find out more go to www.communityfutures.org.