Mayor’s Column – February 14, 2017

February 14, 2017

Economic development and social license, the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. If we look at Economic Development as a process to increase quality of life, by definition, we are looking at more than can be measured in employment statistics and house sales, both of which form part of the picture. But if we let these data dominate the picture, we will be missing perhaps the most vital colors embodied in social license.

Normally we think of social license as the validation of a major industrial enterprise by proofs of environmental friendliness or safety topped off with a financial contribution to some community enhancement project such as a recreation complex or clinic.

I submit that social license is much more fundamental than the restricted limits of such an understanding. Even your local government needs social license – the approval of the citizens for the vision articulated by your elected officials.

Chetwynd Council has just authorized the development of a new Economic Development Strategy. It won’t be entirely new but somewhat akin to a revisiting of the Strategy developed almost exactly 16 years ago. That’s a long time in the history of this small town. Your offspring that date from that year are now demanding driving lessons and are teaching you some tricks on the computer that you had not heard of in those pristine days.

We all know that many liters of water have come down our creeks since 2001. We’ve had two major floods in the intervening years that taught us a lot about flood control and the relation of uncontrolled rain drops to economic development – lessons we would like to have learned without the teaching aids. So we have to move on and bring our learning with us.

I believe there is a positive relationship between a community that is pleasing to the eye, a community that turns the head of the traveller passing by such that she is impelled to stop and take a second look, and the economic prosperity of that community.

A local government that fosters the beautification of the community, that creates an environment appealing to the senses, is a local government that encourages economic development. Economic development as a process to increase quality of life earns social license. You want a healthy industrial support for your community? Indeed, we need and appreciate our healthy industrial support. Then we have to continue to build a community where families feel safe, where educational aspirations can be realized, where aging loved ones can feel secure and valued, where health services are convenient, where recreational opportunities are varied.

Economic development requires a local government with vision to recognize that opportunity takes many forms. Chetwynd was built on wheels yet we are struggling to find enough appropriate parking for the wheels that more and more carry the region’s commerce. Our Administration is working on this challenging and exciting puzzle.

Social license requires, among other things, the balancing of the parking needs of industrial trucks, the planting of shrubs, trees, and flowers, and the encouragement of tourists to take that second – or third look; maybe to stay another day and check out the prices of housing. But it doesn’t stop there.

For your Mayor and Council to keep its social license we must also actively encourage business to set up shop in Chetwynd. It’s an exciting challenge exercise to accommodate the zoning needs of business and the need for quiet enjoyment by the residents that may be grouped across the gully.

Economic Development and Social License: the two go hand in hand.

Merlin Nichols, Mayor