Nanaimo’s draft economic development strategy points to opportunities for expansion of the Port of Nanaimo’s vehicle processing centre, clockwise from left, a community fibre initiative to improve internet speeds, identifying ‘employment lands,’ and advancing south downtown waterfront development. (Black Press photos and Colliers International Consulting/City of Nanaimo images)

Nanaimo’s draft economic development strategy points to opportunities for expansion of the Port of Nanaimo’s vehicle processing centre, clockwise from left, a community fibre initiative to improve internet speeds, identifying ‘employment lands,’ and advancing south downtown waterfront development. (Black Press photos and Colliers International Consulting/City of Nanaimo images)

Infrastructure, internet, industrial land key to Nanaimo’s economic development strategy

Nanaimo city council and stakeholders reviewing draft strategy

The City of Nanaimo is ready to take on greater economic leadership locally with the creation of a new economic development strategy.

City council is expected to endorse an economic development strategy next month after reviewing a draft last month.

Since late 2019, an economic development task force has been working on the strategy as well as planning for the creation of an arm’s-length economic development agency, two recommendations made by a consultant.

Coun. Jim Turley, one of the members of the task force, said the strategy is about much more than marketing Nanaimo as a place to do business.

“While that may be part of it, we need to develop, first of all, something to market,” he said. “I think almost universally, everybody on the task force agreed that it should be project-driven as opposed to ‘let’s get XYZ business to set up in Nanaimo.’ Let’s set up the strategic infrastructure that we may need for some of these first.”

The economic development strategy focuses on six areas: infrastructure, business development, skills development and talent attraction and retention, innovation and technology, social and environmental responsibility, and marketing.

The first recommendation is creation of an infrastructure plan, with some specific projects identified.

Waterfront investment is recommended, including at 1 Port Drive, where the city should “continue to work on the phased development … by supporting re-zoning, subdivision and disposition of the property to create a signature waterfront development.”

A transportation, cargo and logistics hub is also high on the list of recommendations, as it was in a recent report from the mayor’s task force on recovery and resilience.

“Nanaimo could position itself as an extension of the Lower Mainland transportation network, providing economic benefits locally but also contributing to reduced traffic congestion and greenhouse emissions for the entire region,” the document notes, adding that some initiatives could include “increasing direct vessel calls from international carriers, short-sea shipping opportunities, passenger foot ferry and airport … development.”

Some specific projects include a distribution/logistics facility at Duke Point and expansion of the vehicle processing centre at the Assembly Wharf.

Protection and expansion of “employment lands” are mentioned as key.

“If Nanaimo is to become a distribution/logistics hub and take advantage of its trade zone status and deep harbour at Duke Point, the city should safeguard employment lands from conversion to other uses, while unlocking the potential of under-developed properties,” the document notes.

The strategy mentions that development of broadband connectivity will be vital and identifies partnership opportunities to support and link networks, including fibre-optic cables servicing the downtown, hospital and university districts in a “community fibre initiative.”

Bill Corsan, the city’s director of community development, said Nanaimo is a hub of the Connected Coast high-speed internet initiative and could have the best internet connections on the Island, making it more attractive for high-tech businesses.

Development of a downtown tech hub is a recommendation in the strategy, with an acknowledgement that Nanaimo needs to create conditions for growth there including not only infrastructure improvements, but downtown revitalization.

“The underdeveloped nature of [the] local tech sector is a concern both because tech is the fastest-growing sector of the global economy and because technology will be integral to the success of all economic sectors going forward,” the strategy notes.

The ec-dev strategy also acknowledges the health-care sector’s importance as a major employer and suggests advocacy for expansion of tertiary services at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Corsan said some of the strategy’s infrastructure recommendations are among the most interesting.

“I think we have momentum on a lot of those files and it’s really about making sure that we keep [that] going,” he said.

The economic development strategy addresses Nanaimo’s labour market situation, noting poverty and education levels and impacts of COVID-19 mean targeted programs are needed for people who are unemployed and under-employed.

Another social factor touched on in the strategy is the need to continue to address problems caused by homelessness, mental health and addictions issues and social disorder.

“There are clear economic consequences for the city stemming from these issues, whether that is in relation to the labour market, the housing market or downtown and waterfront development,” the strategy notes. “An improvement in the socio-economic welfare of all residents, including the most vulnerable, will have positive implications for local quality of life measures and the city’s ability to grow and sustain its business and economic base.”

The City of Nanaimo will seek feedback on its draft economic development strategy, then bring it back to the council table for endorsement. After that, city staff will work with a consultant to develop a work plan. City council voted unanimously to extend the ec-dev task force’s mandate until the end of February.

“I think there’s some really good structural and foundational pieces in the report that are worthy of focus,” said Coun. Tyler Brown. “It is much more than branding and marketing, it’s about creating conditions where people and businesses can come and try to grow rather than be attracted here and find out there’s some key things missing.”

The city’s economic development department, currently consisting of one staff member, will double in size with the hiring of an economic development manager scheduled for the summer. The departmental budget is $250,000 for this year, while the arm’s-length agency will have a budget of $300,000 plus $269,000 carried over from last year.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo’s recovery task force recommends pride of place, strategic investment

READ ALSO: City of Nanaimo takes inventory of its land for official community plan review



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City Hall

Just Posted

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
UPDATE: No sign of small plane that went down in Juan de Fuca Strait

Searchers out on both sides of border between Victoria and Port Angeles

Keygan Power, pictured at B.C. Children's Hospital,  plays chess five to seven times a day during his recovery care. Keygan suffered a life-threatening brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2.
(Photo Allison Power)
Vancouver Island teen ‘locked inside,’ battling to regain speech after severe brain bleed

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Snow is sticking to the ground on Malahat Drive at Shawnigan Lake Road. (Drive BC)
Snowfall warning issued for Malahat

10 centimetres of snow expected between Goldstream and Mill Bay

Swanwick Ranch, a 67-acre property on Swanwick Road in Metchosin, features a luxurious 10,700 square-foot home overlooking the ocean. It is currently on the market for $14.1 million. (Sotheby’s International Realty)
The five most expensive homes for sale in Greater Victoria

A roundup of luxury estates currently on the market

The community services tent for people in need has found a home near Cook Street and Dallas Road. The Beacon Hill Park trust has prevented the tent from being installed inside park boundaries. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Help tent returns for the homeless near Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park

Homeless services tent installed on Cook Street to provide assistance for area’s homeless population

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Cash and drugs allegedly found in a suspect’s possession following an arrest earlier this month in downtown Nanaimo. (Photo submitted)
Accused drug dealer arrested in Nanaimo carrying $20K, fentanyl, crack and meth

Terrance Virus, 39, being held in custody, scheduled to appear in court Feb. 1

A tip from the public helped Victoria police located and arrest wanted men Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Tips lead police to arrest convicted killer, robber near downtown Victoria

Two men were at large after failing to return to community facility

Police are warning people of flu shot and vaccination frauds. (Black Press Media file photo)
Flu shot fraud charges West Shore resident for non-existent appointments

Fraudulent email claimed to be from London Drugs

Leila Bui with her parents Tuan (left) and Kairry Nguyen on Jan. 27, 2020 after Tenessa Nikirk was found guilty for striking Bui in a Saanich crosswalk. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Driver convicted of dangerous driving after hitting Leila Bui out on bail

Tennesa Nikirk was convicted for striking then 11-year-old Leila Bui with her car

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival is breaching for a COVID-safe return in March. (Poster photo by Owen Crosby)
Pacific Rim Whale Festival aims for virtual return in March

Educational celebration scheduled to arrive in Tofino-Ucluelet on March 15.

Extensive water on No. 4 and 5 at the Mount Brenton Golf Course following heavy rains earlier this month. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Island golf course does a booming business in 2020

A total of 15,000 more rounds played than the previous year at Mount Brenton

SAR crews worked late into the night Tuesday to rescue an injured snowboarder in North Vancouver. (Facebook/North Shore Rescue)
Complicated, dangerous rescue saves man in avalanche near Cypress Mountain

North Shore SAR team braves considerable conditions to reach injured snowboarder

Most Read