Vancouver Island North in 2019 by David Mitchell

Vancouver Island North in 2019 by David Mitchell

Over the past year I have been involved in the Vancouver Island North Training and Attraction Society. Last spring we launched the “MyVIN Attraction Campaign.” (https://myvancouverislandnorth.ca/)

Vancouver Island North is a desirable place to live, play and work, but there are still a number of issues that we face. Two key issues that I hear more than others recently are housing availability and the lack of vibrancy in our downtowns.

The demographics of our region are changing and it was for that reason that the Attraction Campaign was launched. For example, the average age of workers employed in the Forest Industry is about 58 years of age. That industry needs to attract younger workers and they need to do it now.

The demographic challenges go beyond the forest industry. Many industries and employers are having a hard time finding the right employees, for the right job, at the right time.

The Attraction Campaign aims to try and sell young families and workers on the advantages that our region and our life style can have. Small, safe communities, with good schools, and an abundance of glorious wilderness environments and activities!

But there are some challenges to the Campaign’s success. One is that we’re running low on available housing stock. Whether one is looking to buy or simply rent (as so many new arrivals want to do), there really isn’t much out there.

It’s good to hear that the Gwa’sala-Nakwaxda’xw First Nation in Port Hardy have been approved to start a significant market housing project. More is needed. Housing is essential if we want to attract new workers and families to our region. And let’s be clear, we do want to attract new people to come here, otherwise our industries will suffer the consequences of chronic skill shortages.

Housing is necessary, but not entirely sufficient. Younger people want more from their communities.   They want a sense of community. Downtowns can play an important role in reflecting a sense community and ultimately attracting new people to a community.

In Port McNeill a small group of community advocates formed “Community Catalyst,” a vehicle to exchange ideas about developing our community. Lots of great ideas were exchanged via their social media site, and the pole banners was a wonderful outcome of their work.

For nearly 35 years, the award-winning Roger Brooks International (RBI) team has had a singular mission—to help communities become the destination of choice for investment, for business growth and expansion, as an outstanding place to live, and as a premier visitor destination. RBI has assisted in the development, marketing, and branding of nearly two thousand communities, plus numerous states, provinces, and regions around the world.

Brooks has dozens of examples of small communities that have transformed their towns from near “ghost towns” to vibrant places where people want to be! RBI provides a “destination assessment” service. This is not an “off the shelf” approach. The RBI team spends several days exploring the community, “secret-shopping” the area while taking dozens of photographs. The multi-day assessment process culminates with a photographic “Findings & Suggestions Workshop,” which includes dozens of suggestions to increase community’s quality of life, economic vitality, and visitor spending.

Our North Island communities have so much potential so this might be a great resource for us to consider! We have some newly elected and constituted municipal councils that are well-positioned to make some progress on these issues.