One of the vehicles that participated in a rally in Victoria earlier this year from Campbell River that had a message for the provincial government about the importance of forestry to the community. Mirror file photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River’s three economic pillars at risk from a lack of awareness of their importance: report

Independent task force urges support for forestry, aquaculture and tourism

There is a lack of awareness by the community at large and its leaders of the important contributions made by the “three pillars” which underpin the economic success of Campbell River.

That’s what an independent business task force looking into preventing a serious economic downturn arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic discovered.

Instead of just looking at the aftermath of the pandemic, the task force decided it needed to go deeper and focus on the challenges and headwinds facing the broader economy.

“As we met with leaders from across the business spectrum in our community, we realized that the challenges and headwinds facing our economy needed to be heard and examined more deeply than just the business recovery from the pandemic,” says the “Report of the Campbell River Business Recovery Task Force” that was released this week.

The impetus for a task force grew out of a concern by many Campbell River business leaders that the COVID-19 pandemic could add significant challenges to businesses and industries, resulting in a serious economic downturn. It was determined that some actions were needed in order to develop a cohesive and organized approach to successfully identify and confront unfavourable conditions facing the business community.

The task force is a “grassroots initiative” and was designed to take the following actions:

  • Explore and understand the challenges facing Campbell River business;
  • Learn about impediments and aids to Campbell River business generally as well as those specifically applicable to recovery form the pandemic;
  • Message all levels of government the task force’s findings and recommendations.

When the task force began, it was believed that business recovery from COVID-19 would be the centrepiece issue, however, it soon became apparent that “this assumption did not equally apply to the major sectors of the economy.”

As the task force got into it, it discovered that it needed to go more deeply into the larger challenges facing the economy. In particular, the task force concluded, that there is an “apparent lack of awareness by the community at large and its leaders of the important contributions that are made by what we later describe as the ‘three pillars’ which underpin the economic success of Campbell River.”

Those pillars, the task force says, are the primary industries of forestry, aquaculture and tourism and the task force bemoans the level of ignorance in the community and in government about how important they are to the local economy.

“Through this process, it became obvious to the members of the task force that there is a deep disconnect with not only our community’s political representatives but also with a large part of the community, generally, regarding forestry and aquaculture in particular,” the report’s conclusion says.

The task force was made up of members “entirely independent from all levels of government” and included a cross-section of business leaders. It was co-chaired by Garth Sheane and Brian Stamp. Sheane is the retired CEO of Coastal Community Credit Union and Stamp is a retired Campbell River lawyer of 46 years practise.

The task force comes out heavily in favour of protecting and promoting the three pillars – forestry, aquaculture and tourism. It concludes that those industries are under a lot of pressure from governments and large urban interests as well as a lack of awareness from the community’s own political representatives and even a portion of its residents.

“Each member of the task force believes there is a collective responsibility, both of community members and their political representatives to understand what is at stake when any one of these sectors are threatened,” the report says. “Threats come sometimes from market headwinds and lack of awareness but other times by impediments driven by urban narratives and agendas of third parties; either of which have little or no connection to this community, care for or have any understanding of it.

“There must be a balance between industry and social interests, something that is not evident today. We believe that all of the community’s political representatives need to understand this balance and vigorously defend it.”

The report was drafted after the 10-person task force met with a number of businesses and business representatives. It is broken down into the conversations that were had with seven sectors: economic development; coastal forestry; local first nations; tourism; technology; aquaculture; and development and construction.

The report concludes that “we the members of the task force, hope that this report provides an opportunity for the community and its leaders to use it as a beginning not an end and to continue the conversation about what are the underpinnings of its economy. We have determined to ensure Campbell River’s success, the community and its leaders must:

  • meaningfully engage with the “pillars” of Campbell River’s economy;
  • be aware of their respective importance to the community at large; and
  • be ready to defend them from “outside interests.”

The task force presented their report to Campbell River city council’s committee of the whole Oct. 6. As one of the community representatives that took some criticism in the report, the city issued a statement about the report prior to the committee of the whole meeting.

The city’s statement says, “The City of Campbell River welcomes a report on the state of the local economy and recommendations to assist local businesses.”

Mayor Andy Adams applauded the task force members’ history of service and commitment to the community.

“Our city belongs to everyone, and so does the responsibility for contributing to our success,” he said. “Every person in our community has a vested interest in the success of our local businesses, large and small. The findings in this report reinforce the commitment of so many people to keep Campbell River’s economy moving forward during and after the challenges we are currently facing.”

The city statement noted that the task force’s “pillars” are not the only economic drivers in the local economy: “In addition to the resource industries cited in the report, the City’s economic development office notes that the many small businesses (fewer than 100 employees), as well as the health and education sectors, are major contributors to local economic health – and the growing technology sector provides innovation for industry, small businesses and services.”

“98% of Canadian businesses are small businesses. In Campbell River, the enterprising spirit of small business has carried us through the loss of major industry and built the foundation of our success,” says economic development officer Rose Klukas.

Anyone with any comments or inquiries for the task force can email: crbusinessrecovery@gmail.com

Read the task force’s report here: Report of the Campbell River Business Recovery Task Force

RELATED: Campbell River business community’s ability to adjust has been inspirational


@AlstrT
editor@campbellrivermirror.com

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