There’s a new kid on the local economic development block these days.
Incorporated back in February, the Kitimat Economic Development Association (KEDA) has since been slowly introducing itself to the community and outlining what it wants to accomplish.
That included an in-camera meeting with city council on Monday, May 16.
Spokesman Ron Burnett said KEDA members attending that meeting thought it went “very well” and some councillors clearly thought it worth giving the new organisation “further consideration”
Mayor Joanne Monaghan was equally upbeat about the meeting, also describing it as having gone well.
“We can work together and I am looking forward to working together,” she said, noting the individuals involved in KEDA still had some provincial contacts that the city had lost as a result of the power sales war with what was then Alcan.
Underlining her point on co-operation, Monaghan said, “There’s no reason we can’t work together.”
Burnett told the Sentinel that one thing the association had learned from its research was “there is no really tight, perfect model for economic development.”
They therefore believed that the best approach was to look at the people they had, what their strengths were, then take it from there.
Although KEDA hadn’t yet settled on it as a matter of policy, Burnett said there is general agreement that “the ideal situation is a population of somewhere between 15 and 20 thousand.”
He explained that population size would keep the values of a small community while being big enough to support two general surgeons, an orthopedic surgeon and most of the medical specialists.
It would also add to the number of schools and promote growth on the business front.
So how is KEDA financed? To even set it up required the founding directors pulling $100 from their own pockets to cover the costs of registering as a society and paying for directors insurance and a post office box.
It had also received an anonymous donation from someone in town – “not RTA”, he emphasized – “who really wants to see us succeed”.
As for the future, Burnett said they have roughed out an operating budget of about $200,000 a year which would cover the cost of a full-time economic development officer, a clerical employee, any travel/entertainment required and the ability to take on “a few projects”.
The idea is that budget would be funded primarily by the city (much like the Terrace ec-dev model) with participation from the Chamber of Commerce and major industry – Rio Tinto Alcan and Apache at this point.
He pointed out those industries had a vested interest in having a viable and successful community in order to attract and retain workforces.
While describing First Nations participation in KEDA as a must, Burnett said whether or not that included financial participation was not known at this time.