A new economic development strategy has been approved for the City of Williams Lake.
“The City decided that post-2017 wildfires it was in our best interest to get down on paper what we really think our economic priorities as we transition what we were doing before fires to post fires,” said economic development officer, Beth Veenkamp.
Focus groups and an online survey in which more than 300 people responded to helped capture four major themes in the strategy:
- Enhanced Liveability and Quality of Life: includes housing diversification and rental development, increasing investments, and partnerships in mountain biking development, which repeatedly emerged as a community asset worth investing in.
- Investment Attraction and Business Development: includes opportunities such as airport development, tourism product development and agriculture diversification.
- Skill Development and Labour Force Attraction: includes attracting skilled workers and expanding education opportunities.
- Partnership Development: includes collaborating on projects with neighbouring First Nations communities, leveraging opportunities with the Cariboo Regional District, and focused work with the Province to tap into its programs and initiatives.
With the strategy approved, Veenkamp adds that it is now a matter of getting to work.
“The great thing about this strategy is that there was nothing that was particularly new information that came out of it,” she said.
“It just really helped to find what our priorities are based on what the community said their priorities are.”
“Some of the work that is already underway is partnership development with different organizations so that we can leverage our opportunities as a community, we’re really focusing as a city on residential development because housing is one of the areas that really need some attention, and we’re looking at diversifying the economy through international investment opportunities that are becoming available through the province as well as supporting our existing businesses to keep their doors open, maybe create succession plans for the future so that people who are retired can take over their businesses.”
The survey results showed that most residents were happy living in Williams Lake, due in large part to the small town feel and sense of community. Most respondents indicated that they would like to see Williams Lake grow a little, but not too much.