Stop-gap funding approved while City debates future of economic development

By Spencer Sterritt
May 1, 2019 - 5:36pm

Dirk Heydemann/HA Photography

NANAIMO — There will be someone at the helm promising to guide economic development in Nanaimo while City leadership debates how to attract future business.

Councillors approved $48,000 for the Mid-Island Business Initiative (MIBI) during their Monday meeting. The initiative is led by John Hankins, who used to run the economic development arm of the City.

MIBI will now work to attract and retain talent in Nanaimo, specifically in the tech sector, for the rest of 2019. The initiative started in 2016 and has worked throughout the area since then.

The $48,000 provided to MIBI comes from a contingency fund for Nanaimo council.

“I'm just really not comfortable with an expenditure out of contingency for a short-term six month period,” coun. Ian Thorpe said. “It might not be a lot of money to some people, but I really think (we) should...use that money to look at the longer term and decide where we want to go from there.”

His sentiment was shared by coun. Erin Hemmens and Sheryl Armstrong, who opposed the motion.

It passed 6-3.

In previous comments to NanaimoNewsNOW, Hankins admitted it's tough to track the concrete benefits of promoting economic development.

"The key thing is to keep getting a consistent message out there," Hankins said. "But once you've got the message out there, you never quite know how it is received or who receives it. Companies can suddenly start showing up and you can't put a complete correlation to the events you've been doing."

The matter was dealt with before councillors voted unanimously on taking another step further towards boosting in-house economic development, which is modestly funded compared to other cities of similar sizes.

A consultant will now engage with the business community in May and June, gathering information and opinions from major organizations like Vancouver Island University, the Nanaimo Port Authority and the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce.

City staff said knowing what businesses desire and seek in Nanaimo is step one of their plan to refresh economic development and determine Council priorities to bring more investment to the City.

 

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