Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology, was in Courtenay Thursday to announce the launch of a new Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) Entrepreneur Immigration Regional Pilot. At right is Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard. (Scott Stanfield/Comox Valley Record)

Immigration program intends to grow economies outside major urban centres

Provincial Nominee Program launch announced in Courtenay

After looking around B.C., Zhao Zhengfu and his family recognized the potential of running a business in Courtenay.

With help from the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), he was able to purchase the Union Street Grill and Grotto on Fifth Street.

“We’re incredibly proud to have established roots here and grown our restaurant in Comox Valley,” Zhengfu said at a Thursday event at his restaurant, where government announced a new PNP Entrepreneur Immigration Regional Pilot.

“This pilot will help advance prosperity for the community and the people who live here,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. “With the support of participating communities, British Columbia, I’m convinced, can attract more entrepreneurs like Zhao.”

The pilot is intended to help meet economic development needs of regional communities, and to encourage investments outside urban areas.

“As a region with an aging demographic, immigration has played an important role in recent years as new business startups and successions in our communities,” Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells said.

Courtenay and Comox are among the many B.C. communities participating in the pilot.

To participate, communities must have settlement and business supports in place to help newcomers integrate. They must also have a population of fewer than 75,000, and be located 30 kilometres away from a municipality of more than 75,000. Another stipulation is to identify three priority economic development sectors.

Applicants need to have a personal net worth of $300,000, make a minimum investment of $100,000 in a new business and create one new job.

Since 2010, the existing entrepreneur immigration program has generated more than 2,000 jobs in B.C.

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