Williams Lake and Quesnel are among the 27 B.C. communities participating in an entrepreneur immigration pilot program.

Minister of Jobs, Trade, and Technology, Bruce Ralston announced Thursday the launch of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) Entrepreneur Immigration Regional Pilot for smaller centres.

He said it’s a partnership with the federal government that enables the province to place its priorities on the immigration system and attract both skilled workers and entrepreneurs across British Columbia.

“Today what we are doing is officially launching the regional pilot that was created for foreign entrepreneurs who are ready to start a business outside the major urban centres.”

The new pilot complements the existing PNP Entrepreneur Immigration base category that is currently in place but has different financial criteria to reflect the lower cost of starting a business in a smaller centre.

It will be delivered for an initial two-year period.

“This pilot program is a good opportunity for Williams Lake to raise its profile as an attractive place to relocate and start a business venture,” said Beth Veenkamp, Economic Development Officer for the City of Williams Lake.

“The purpose of the program is to spread the benefits of Canada’s immigration programs into regional communities; typically this kind of investment goes into large cities.”

The Regional Pilot will include incentives such as a lower investment threshold and personal net worth in order to apply. The program is only for start-up businesses, although people wishing to purchase an existing business are encouraged to apply through the regular PNP Program.

“One of the priorities coming from the Economic Development Strategy is increasing the quality of life and livability of Williams Lake so that people want to stay in the community,” said Mayor of Williams Lake Walt Cobb.

“This program will be one of the initiatives that we will be using over the next two years to see more businesses open, which in turn gives our residents more choices and options.”

The B.C. PNP is the Province’s only direct economic immigration tool to attract experienced entrepreneurs and high-demand foreign workers.

“It provides a permanent immigration pathway for people who choose to live and work in B.C,” the Ministry of Jobs, Trade, and Technology said in a news release.