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Northern BC Economic Development Vision and Strategy Project
"Northern Vision for Northern Success:
Identifying strategic planning requirements"
The impacts of social, economic, and political restructuring are being experienced across northern BC. To address the challenges and opportunities created by this restructuring requires both a regional perspective and a strategic development plan speaking to the key issues of vision, policy, investment, and coordination. The Government of Canada recognizes the need to develop the economies of rural Canada, and a research team at the University of Northern British Columbia is coordinating a process for building and collating the information required for this framework. This project outlines a process whereby community and economic development stakeholders can jointly participate in the creation of a strategic plan framework which can then be used as the basis for a more extensive strategic development plan exercise. In turn, that strategic development plan can identify an economic development vision for northern success and be used to guide long term economic development policies, initiatives, and strategies.
Change is not new in northern BC. Over the past 200 years the social, economic, cultural, and political landscape has undergone considerable transformation. Since 1950 especially, investments in community development, industrial expansion, transportation and communications infrastructure, and environmental management have been extensive. The result is a region which remains the cornerstone of the provincial economy. As the pace of change has accelerated, and is compounded by geographical size, remoteness, and access to markets. Communities and decision-makers across northern BC know that it creates both new challenges and new opportunities. There is also emerging recognition of the need to coordinate, on a regional basis, a strategic vision and plan for guiding investment, assisting policy development, and integrating a range of development of opportunities.
Against a backdrop of tremendous change there are also opportunities for addressing issues associated with that change. Northern communities are working through organizations like the North Central Municipal Association and the Northwest Corridor Development Corporation to bring a regional voice to economic and public policy issues. The federal and provincial governments are examining policy areas around service provision and infrastructure investment to support rural revitalization. The industrial and resource sectors are repositioning themselves within both local and global contexts. All of this interest in regional economic and community adjustment is tempered by recognition that limited funding supports will require a coordinated approach to ensure its wise investment.
Three recent reports reinforce the argument for a regional strategic planning framework process. From British Columbia, Canada (surveying work in the United States, France, Belgium, Finland and Norway), and the United States (surveying work in Mexico, Finland, Australia, Hungary, England, and Spain) there is clear recognition of the need to focus upon regions instead of sectors, to invest in regional competitiveness, and to retool rural and small town workforces and entrepreneurs to take up new sources of competitive advantage.
The purpose of this project is to undertake a community driven process that will produce a document, which provides an analysis of the key challenges and opportunities relative to the economic development and diversification of northern BC communities and a series of actionable recommendations aimed at creating the mechanisms necessary to engage, mobilize and coordinate key resources and stakeholders for the implementation of the northern economic development strategy.
The research methodology for this project will include:
i) Literature Review
The UNBC project team is proposing a two step consultation process:
- The first involves a series of face-to-face interviews with local stakeholders in over 40 communities across northern BC (defined for this work as UNBCs service region - extending from Cache Creek north to the Yukon, and from the Pacific Ocean to the Alberta border). People not able to participate in these face-to-face interviews are invited to submit their comments direct to the project team in writing and via email.
- The second includes a set of regional workshops. Starting in January 2004 four economic planning workshops will be held across the region.
These interviews and workshops will provide a catalyst for the exchange of local economic information and ideas between government, industry, small business, First Nations, economic development organizations, and community groups. This information will then be used to guide the development of northern focused, comprehensive, long term, economic development policies and strategies that will generate new economic opportunities for northern residents and enhance the overall well being of the region.
The project start date will be June 1, 2003 with a completion date of April 30, 2004.
The government of Canada is supporting this project through Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) and its network of Community Futures Development Corporations.
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