The Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Organization (SCREDO) has released a mid-year report, but some Sechelt councillors are urging the arms-length group to adopt a more visible public profile.
Sechelt councillors were the first to publicly discuss the report, which tracks SCREDO’s work from Sept. 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, when it was presented at the Sept. 19 meeting of the district’s finance committee.
SCREDO receives approximately $292,000 per year in local government funding, and the mid-year report says the organization has successfully launched 10 projects and has three others that are expected to launch by the end of the year.
SCREDO has spent $120,736 on programs so far this fiscal year, including $64,748 for a “Business Roundup” which is designed to give local governments and others an accurate picture of the state of local business.
According to the report, SCREDO expected to have 1,200 businesses in its database by the end of this month and “record information for at least 70 per cent of businesses by the end of 2019, as well as to monitor trends amongst those that have left, ceased activity or newly arrived.”
Coun. Noel Muller congratulated the SCREDO representatives for holding the line on administrative costs, which where budgeted at some $117,000, to just over $35,900.
“That was one of my main concerns when we started this project and it was great to see that hasn’t become and issue yet,” he said.
Councillors were less congratulatory over what they saw as a lack of detail in the report and the fact SCREDO hasn’t been very proactive in keeping the public up to date with its activities.
Coun. Darnelda Siegers said one of the most frequent comments she gets about SCREDO is that “nobody knows what you’re doing.”
SCREDO chair Dave Chisholm said the board “didn’t want to build a bunch of expectations by announcing all the stuff that we’re going to do… Most of our projects, especially the bigger ones, are on the verge of going public.”
Board member Celia Robben added that several announcements are being queued up for the fall, including the public launch of an online community calendar project with a price tag of just over $15,000. She also pointed out that SCREDO is required to present reports to the funding governments twice a year, which then become public.
Siegers said she doesn’t think that’s enough.
“What I’m hearing in the community,” she said, “is that they need to know you’re doing something … because the question we get asked [is], ‘What are you guys doing with the money we gave you?’ and they don’t see anything.”
Chisholm said the board sees the projects themselves as more important than having the name SCREDO out in the public.
“I disagree,” responded Siegers. “Because it’s through the public that we can actually grant you the money. If they don’t think you’re doing anything we can’t give you the money.”
Mayor Bruce Milne, who chairs the finance committee, said although there’s broad support for SCREDO, the questions from council were an accurate reflection of what’s coming from the community.
“It is important, your profile, and that you be seen to be doing the work you’re doing,” he said. “Most of us understand the slow and invisible work that’s being done if you’re actually going to do ground up community economic development … but having said that, the community still wants to see some visible realities, they want to know that you’re active.”
Sunshine Coast Regional District directors were scheduled to review the SCREDO update at a Sept. 27 committee meeting. Councillors in Gibsons will also get a chance to discuss the report in the coming weeks.