Kitimat’s Economic Development Office (EDO) has settled in well to their new digs, an arm’s reach from the main District of Kitimat offices on the City Centre Mall’s third floor.
The new location, an annexation of space that was once occupied by neighbour Carlyle Shephard & Co, comes complete with two stand alone offices — one for Economic Development Officer Rose Klukas and the other for the District’s Business and Communications Officer Tyler Noble — as well as a front office desk for the department’s clerk Barb Haun (who Klukas refers to as the true glue that holds the department together), and new meeting space in a bright, glass-enclosed room.
It’s the old real estate rule of thumb that location is everything. That is, before the EDO formally moved out of their original space early this year, there was a notable challenge to this branch of the municipality dedicated to being the town’s welcoming arms: they were shyly hiding away beyond the District of Kitimat’s front desk, around the corner, just past the office of the mayor and the Chief Administrative Officer.
It was perhaps a fine location if you were one of those two people, but the EDO needed to be in a place the public could be free to walk into.
And now with their new offices, the EDO also has more breathing room.
Klukas says now that they have their own office space that can be accessed without traversing the halls of the municipality they’ve seen a spike in walk-ins from the community, the exact reaction they were hoping for.
It’s an opportune time to grow their accessibility. While on the surface Kitimat may appear to be in a cooling-off period from the economic engine that was the Rio Tinto Alcan modernization project and to an extent early works on the Kitimat LNG project, the time now gives the EDO a chance to build a foundation for further investment.
In fact the department has been steadily hosting delegations and fielding information requestion, and also providing community tours to possible future economic stakeholders. It’s a part of the job that hasn’t seen any drastic slowdown, said Noble.
Noble points to the fact that economic development is very tied to relationship building and being available to investors is a key to building the success of Kitimat.
With the EDO’s meeting space they can host some smaller-size groups, without having to fight with other municipal departments for time in the District’s main board room.
Meanwhile some things don’t change. Klukas says they always encourage potential investors to ensure a good relationship with the Haisla First Nation, especially in that this is the Haisla’ traditional territory.
Noble said First Nations relationship building is something many companies are more aware of now than they were just a few years ago.
Kitimat’s EDO meanwhile has recently been promoting more than just outside investment, but building the local economy too. They’ll be soon launching the localized version of a northern small business initiative called Small Town Love.
The program, part of the Northern Development Initiative Trust, is called Love Kitimat, and will formally begin with a business fair in October.
And just last week the department also held a Skills Information Fair to connect job seekers with companies to develop an understanding of what people will need to know if they want to work for one of the new companies in town.
Ultimately the EDO exists to tell people that Kitimat is open for business.
With their new office space they can now show, more than ever, that they are too.