Gabriola Enterprise Zone Follow-up

Julie Sperber

Gabriola Economic Development Officer

Wednesday, February 27 2019

I wrote an article in the Sounder’s January 23rd edition that announced provincial funding for a feasibility study to explore zoning a property on Gabriola to permit light industrial uses. 

The grant application, titled the Gabriola Enterprise Zone, was submitted to the Ministry of Forest, Land, Natural Resources, Operations and Rural Development in July 2018, on behalf of the Community Economic Development (CED) initiative, which was started and is governed by the Gabriola Chamber. 

The article has been discussed online in community boards and I have also been having many in-person conversations since it was published. 

These discussions, viewpoints and feedback are welcome and prompted me to write this follow up article.

CED recognizes that economic, environmental and social challenges are connected, complex and ever-changing.  CED projects are rooted in local knowledge and led by community members. Positive social and environmental impact plays a significant role in determining the value of CED projects. As the Community Economic Development Officer (CEDO), I have these things in mind when looking at the different angles of our economy. My goal is to find ways to help foster community prosperity and deepen economic resiliency. The $9000 feasibility study for the Gabriola Enterprise Zone is an example of this exploration.

There is no agenda or desired outcome in this process. Moreover I am certain that we will learn a great deal from this study regardless of the outcome. The study will research the challenges, the positives, the negatives, locations/properties, ownership and potential usages of having a designated property that could be home to light industrial uses with appropriate limits and conditions. Community engagement, robust discussion and the openness to explore ideas will be encouraged. 

This is an opportunity to be inventive, progressive and forward thinking. What could we process to create a more circular economy to keep materials and work here on the island? An example might be a business that crushes recycled glass and produces marketable products. What businesses could grow to widen employment opportunities? What should we produce or manufacture for positive community impact? For greater sustainability? Could we develop community owned services and resources? Could an industrial zone have positive overall environmental impact? 

The negative associations with a word like ‘industrial’ are significant and important to acknowledge. However, our community could also choose to design an industrial zone with appropriate constraints that offers a place for new enterprises and increased employment in sustainable activities that have a positive impact on our community.

A Request for Proposal outlining the work and deliverables of the project will be posted in early March and community engagement will begin in Spring. 

The CEDO’s open office hours are on Tuesdays between 4-7pm, at the Chamber Visitor Centre in the Madrona Complex. Or feel free to contact me at 250-668-5389 or by email at ecdev@gabriolaisland.org