December 13, 2017
Which of you reading this column and seeing the words “economic development” (ED) would actually know the meaning of the term? Would you think of ED as luring a major industry to town and then benefiting from some of the spin-off effects? Is it something else, something less tangible or measurable? Can we articulate a concept of ED that works for Chetwynd.
For now, let’s think of ED in the less-tangible or measurable sense. After all, the economy is more than steel beams, smokestacks, or rubber on the road though all that may be part of the very busy economy we enjoy.
I cannot get away from the belief that a vibrant economy is primarily based on a healthy, vigorous, enlightened community, a community that takes great pride in its people and their environment and does everything possible to promote their health, vigor, enlightenment, and enjoyment. For the moment, think of library before you move on to other things. Though you might not be able to find a direct link between the Chetwynd Public Library and your pay cheque, I submit that the link is there, it is strong, it is enduring, though it may be nebulous.
Just this morning I was in the library and was delighted to see young children, adolescents, and even some folk sporting the obvious evidence of maturity all busily enjoying the soul of the community. Indeed, a community without a library could very possibly be a community without a soul.
Now think of community radio and television. Relatively recent in the great scheme of the centuries (we assume), local radio and television has become a potent force in our society. I submit that these elements contribute strongly to local ED.
Chetwynd’s Recreation Centre is another jewel in the bracelet that encircles our town and binds us into community. But does it contribute to ED? By my definition it certainly does – in a big way! Get off the couch almost any evening and take a quick survey of the activity happening there. As an enticement to put down roots in this community, it would be hard to top the Chetwynd and District Recreation Centre.
Now consider a few other promoters or supporters of ED: Northern Health, hospital, clinic, the trail system, School District No. 59, Northern Lights College, the Chetwynd merchants, a local government that is open for business while attentive to the needs of established business, and citizens who will forego a trip to an unnamed locality in order to support local business – all this and more is foundational to ED.
But can the effect of all these components of community singly or collectively be measured in dollars returned to the community through ED. No, the returns cannot be measured. I am actually satisfied that the links between our community assets and the hard, cold, indifference of ED as may be seen through the eyes of the accountant are not measurable.
I am also satisfied that a community that divested itself of these assets in a misplaced, money-saving, tax-reducing endeavour is a community in which I do not want to live.
What should we do to bring ED to Chetwynd? Let’s keep on making Chetwynd the kind of town that is like the kind of town in which you and I would like to live and raise our families. That’s true ED.
Oh, by the way, “all power is trust” (Margaret Thatcher).
Merlin Nichols, Mayor