Coast-wide economic development agency ready for public spotlight

Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Corporation

Just over six months after its board was announced, the Coast-wide economic development “entity” now has a name, a chair, and a strategic plan.

Shelley McDade, CEO of the Sunshine Coast Credit Union, has been named chair of the Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Corporation. She told Coast Reporter the corporation has been registered as a non-profit society.

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Local governments have committed to providing $300,000 in annual funding, although the final agreement is still to be signed. The economic development corporation has also applied for a grant from the BC Rural Dividend Fund.

It used grant money from the Island Coastal Economic Trust to cover the cost of bringing in a consultant to help draft a strategic plan. McDade said she’s been impressed with what they’ve managed to get done behind the scenes over the past few months and she’s confident they’ll be able to deliver “the biggest bang for the taxpayers’ buck.”

“There’s more complexity than may meet the eye when you’re working with four different governments and agreements, and those sorts of things,” McDade said. “We’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made as a board, and we think we are literally ready to shoot out of the gate.”

The next major step for the organization will be presenting the strategic plan to the local government representatives at their Oct. 11 intergovernmental meeting. Until that happens, the board can’t reveal many details.

“The first year’s focus is going to be at home,” McDade said. “So we’re going to be looking at things like existing business retention, making sure that we have accessible, usable economic data … and also workforce development.” She also said the board has agreed on a list of “quick wins projects” they can throw their support behind right away.

One of the things McDade can’t say at this point is whether the board’s plan includes hiring an economic development officer. “We have assessed the resources we’re going to need to achieve the strategic plan,” she said. “I suspect we’re going to need a balance of hired employees and a working board to make it all come together.”

The others on the corporation’s eight-member board are: Alan Skelley from Pender Harbour; Robin Chauhan; Maria Hampvent; Tanya Smith; Cheryl McNicol, president of the Self Employed Women’s Network (SEWN); Celia Robben of Sunshine Coast Tourism; David Chisholm, a tech entrepreneur and past-president of the Gibsons Chamber of Commerce; and Brian Jones, representing the shíshálh Nation.

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