Local governments working to attract immigrant entrepreneurs

Local governments on the Sunshine Coast are working with their economic development agency to attract new entrepreneurs to the community through the Entrepreneur Immigration-Regional Pilot.

The program was announced late last year and is a slightly different version of the familiar Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) which, according to the Union of BC Municipalities, is open only to communities with a population below 75,000, located more than 30 kilometres from a municipality of more than 75,000 people.

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Speaking on Eastlink Community TV’s Talk to Your Local Government Feb. 7, Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) chair Lori Pratt said the new pilot project is different than past initiatives under the PNP, in large part because of the requirement that an immigrant investor will need a referral from a community.

“The way they’re rolling it out now is that any of the people who are involved in the program have to have a business plan, they must have visited the community they are moving to first, and the business plan actually has to be signed off on by the community.”

Pratt said reviewing the business plans of potential immigrant investors is where the Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Agency (SCREDO) comes in.

“There’s much more support than what there has been in the past,” Pratt said. “In past iterations of the PNP program, you’d have people coming in to a community, buying a business, getting their citizenship and then they’d be leaving the community… In some cases some very successful businesses were essentially lost to the community as a whole, and we saw a lot of that on the Sunshine Coast a few years ago.”

Gibsons Mayor Bill Beamish said some of the areas for investment opportunities identified by SCREDO include tourism, health care, marine industries, and forestry.

In her report to Sechelt council at the Jan. 16 meeting, Mayor Darnelda Siegers said one of the agencies the local governments have already met with hopes to help as many as 600 families immigrate to B.C.

“We talked everything from mixed use housing to destination tourism, hotels, and everything else we could come up with,” Siegers said. “Both sides left the meeting excited about the possibilities for the Sunshine Coast.”

SCREDO has budgeted $2,000 so far to working on the immigrant investor program and in its latest progress report it said it hoped to start meeting with potential applicants and make its first referrals in the second or third quarters of this year.

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