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Blueprint of Kitimat’s ambitious five-year economic development plan unveiled

“Bold” downtown revitalization at the heart of strategy to attract new residents
District of Kitimat graphic of the downtown core. A significant portion of a new five-year economic development plan would see the barren look of the downtown area transformed into an appealing hub for Kitimat living.

The District of Kitimat is one step closer to adopting a five-year plan with a suite of unprecedented objectives aimed at making a more livable, beautiful and—most importantly—attractive city to new residents seeking jobs.

As the district faces continued pressure from businesses and big industry to attract a reliable workforce, staff was directed to develop the five-year economic development strategy last January with extensive online and in-person community outreach. On Sept. 12, council received a draft of that plan at a Committee of the Whole meeting outlining more than 60 recommendations to meet the ultimate goal.

The report’s planning consultant, Rynic Communications principal Chris Fields, was quick to call it a bold plan in need of bold action.

“I received some feedback asking if this is too ambitious,” he told council. “Heck yeah. I don’t think anyone goes to bed at night wishing their community to be average. We all want to love our communities. We want our communities to do well and succeed.

“Industry is telling you they’re having attraction and retention challenges that’s linked to needing a more vibrant community to live in. And if there’s one thing we heard consistently in our survey work, it’s ‘we’ve been surveyed so much, we’ve been planned so much, when are we going to do things?”

The strategy focuses on five key goals identified through public surveys. Housing choice and affordability tops the list, followed in order by a Kitimat-beautiful movement, a “boldly” revitalized downtown and the promotion of small business growth and entrepreneurism.

These objectives all contribute to the overarching goal of creating and promoting a desirable community for a relocating workforce, according to the consultant.

Kitimat Economic Development Association vice president Bill Eynon and director Tom Meier lauded the district’s director of economic development, Walsham Tenshak, and her team for the strategy’s breadth and vision.

“We fully support and endorse the immediate implementation and actions to forward the strategies in this document,” Meyer said.

He acknowledged the strategy is lengthy and ambitious but felt assured it was achievable with proper community engagement along the way.

“We need to be champions—all of us… so there is an opportunity for future generations to stay here, and want to stay here.”

Of the three key challenges identified during public surveys, a revitalized downtown area was singled out repeatedly to have the most transformative and positive impact on Kitimat. Coordinated workforce attraction and accelerated community development followed.

Overall, council also praised the strategy but requested a future draft that addresses small but numerous concerns among the 61 recommendations.

Council also raised concerns that several of the strategy’s recommendations overlap with existing projects and council mandates. They questioned whether the economic department is properly staffed to see the strategy through.

Tenshak said many of the recommendations tie into projects spearheaded by other departments, which will alleviate the workload, but it’s also important to include these goals in order to properly define the strategy’s direction.

“Some of these things are one-time projects, some of these are continuous and some of these are already underway. But by putting them in the strategic plan you’re saying council is aligned with this vision, and to continue this work that we’ve started.”

Summary of first steps in the Economic Development Strategy:Downtown Makeover: At the forefront of the plan is the vibrant revival of the city centre. Incentives include a revamped tax structure targeting large master plan redevelopments and fostering a local coffee shop culture.

Affordable Housing in Focus: Kitimat’s new housing vision hinges on the Hybrid Planning Code, aiming to diversify living options. A significant shift will be the introduction of accessory dwelling units in single-family zones, promising affordable choices for residents.

Kitimat Gets a Facelift: The ‘Kitimat-Beautiful Movement’ will rejuvenate its aesthetic appeal, from a dedicated beautification committee to annual community clean-ups.

A Booming Business Landscape: The strategy also underscores robust business growth, spanning local and global initiatives. Local businesses will get support via programs such as Love Kitimat, while bigger plans involve delving deep into natural gas expansion and significant power supply boosts.

Becoming a Relocation Hub: With strategies such as the ‘Welcome to Kitimat Club’ and a drive to increase daycare spaces, the city aims to attract and retain a vibrant workforce.