VOICE on the Coast has expanded its board and is looking to get even more involved in helping to support positive growth and change on the Sunshine Coast.
VOICE held its second annual general meeting at the new Gibsons Public Market space last Saturday night. An estimated 200 people were on hand March 1 from all walks of life - area politicians, business leaders and young entrepreneurs - to show their support and enthusiasm for the group.
Elected to the 2014 board were: Silas White, Heather James, Chad Hershler, Rita Koutsodimos, Krista Wollen, Lori Pratt, Angie Ishak, Joanna Strzelecki, Kirsten Rawkins, Nic Weswick and Jody Colford.
VOICE was started after the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation released its Vital Signs report a few years ago.
"From that report it became clear for many of us to start VOICE to attract, retain and engage the younger generation on the Sunshine Coast," said Pratt during her opening remarks, which kicked off the AGM. "It's only been a short time, but we're making progress."
White provided a brief overview of the events and activities that VOICE was a part of last year. Some of the highlights included: the Ignite program, Coast Car Co-op, Vital Signs, the Town of Gibsons official community plan (OCP) review, Sunshine Coast Regional District OCP reviews, the Gibsons Public Market and several local government committees.
White said VOICE is striving to host more regular events this year and wants to ensure they play a strong role in the November municipal elections by raising awareness of the issues and candidates.
The evening then shifted to economics as Shelley McDade from the Sunshine Coast Credit Union provided a brief economic update of the Sunshine Coast.
McDade's economic perspective was based on recent data from BC Statistics and the Central 1 Credit Union.
McDade's report compared the Coast to Parksville, Osoyoos, Summerland and Nelson -five communities, as she put it, that share similar characteristics of population base, attractive lifestyles and other characteristics.
The communities were looked at in terms of population, business starts, consumer bankruptcies, unemployment rates, regional employment growth, housing starts and real estate trends.
"We always tend to look at economics in blocks of years. I wanted to look at things by comparing other communities that share a lot of the Sunshine Coast's common features," McDade said. "Generally speaking we are in the middle of the pack. It's interesting that no one is knocking it out of the park and that's what 2007 and 2008 did. I think we always want to think that we are over that hill. We are not quite there, but we are certainly moving in the right direction."
McDade said when she sees the enthusiasm like she did in the room Saturday night, it gives her hope.
"What I'd like to leave you with tonight is, when we are in this financial juncture, opportunities are scarce, so at this time when capital and opportunities are so scarce, how do we ensure that we're the one that gets the kind of growth that we want on the Sunshine Coast so that someone like Summerland doesn't go and snap it up?" she asked. "How do we make sure that we are the ones at the top of the investor list or the retiree who wants to come here or the top of the list for the new family that wants to come here? Collectively we have to work together to ensure we can place ourselves in the right position."
Dion Whyte and Anders McKinnon then provided a look at Persephone Brewing and what it took to launch the Sunshine Coast's own farmhouse brewery.
To wrap up the night, the crowd was treated to a performance from Robotic Horse Mechanical Sun.
To learn more about VOICE, see www.voiceonthecoast.com.
© Coast Reporter