RDN requesting City of Nanaimo return $192,000 in Economic Development funds

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, January 31 2017

The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) is formally requesting the return of fees paid to the now-defunct Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) for services not provided.

The RDN had a contract with the NEDC to provide economic development and tourism services for the three southern Electoral Areas (A, B, and C) of the RDN.

In October of 2016, the City of Nanaimo separated the functions of tourism from economic development.

In December of 2016, Nanaimo City Council moved to change the alignment of the City’s economic development function with the forthcoming creation of an Economic Development Commission. 

The new commission and its associated governance structure will replace the work and mandate of the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation.

Regular operations of the NEDC will end January 31.

The RDN is requesting $192,000, of which $65,000 will be for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy islands).

Howard Houle, RDN Director for Area B, said in addition to that request, the RDN is asking for the return of funds “for two months service we didn’t get. An additional $29,000 to be divided per capita among the three EAs.”

The official motion is worded that the RDN terminate the Southern Community Economic Development Service Agreement (dated March 2012) between the RDN and the Nanaimo Development Corporation.

Houle said RDN staff and the directors for Electoral Areas A, B and C will be meeting on February 1 to determine the future of economic development and tourism for their respective areas.

Houle is optimistic on the future of economic development and tourism for Area B.

“I think it is an opportunity for Gabriola to have a made-on-Gabriola solution to tourism and economic development. We are working with island organizations including the Chamber of Commerce.”

Gloria Hatfield, President of the Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce said, “Part of what could help us improve the overall health of our community is the support and resources we can provide to all of the incredible made-on-and-for-Gabriola businesses. Last year we sought and received a wealth of input from over 600 Gabriolans on what might help them. We can’t wait to work with the community and the RDN to prioritize and see what we can make happen.”

Setting up the long-term vision for Area B will take time though, and Houle said there has to be work done now ahead of the 2017 tourism season.

“The Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce is going to provide interim tourism and ED services until we get this plan figured out. Which we think will be by the end of May.

“Tourism has to be dealt with now - if you delay, you’re out of the cycle.”

Hatfield said, ““It is important that we take over, as much as possible, the tourism marketing activities that have been being managed by Tourism Nanaimo on Gabriola’s behalf. This short-term work will be to ensure we do not lose momentum, allowing the community time to determine the longer-term priorities. The right support and resources provided to the incredible made-on-and-for-Gabriola businesses could do so much to help us improve the overall health of our community.”

The plan is to bring forward a motion at the February 14 meeting of the RDN Board to request funding for the interim program.

This past week, the City of Nanaimo staff announced that the City had signed an agreement with Tourism Vancouver Island to provide destination marketing and destination development services.

According to both the City and the RDN, the RDN is not providing any money for the agreement, to which the City will contribute $470,500.