Some thoughts on our town

Our knowledgeable economic development manager has been heard to say that all he can do is create the conditions for Ec Dev, which is of course fundamentally correct. He has after all no investment money, no magic access to investors or markets. Nor can he derail zoning applications by pointing out that there is no market need .. for another liquor store or pet food franchise (I see one did go down) or what ever. He knows, as do any of us who think about such things, that there is no silver bullet large employer casting about for the perfect home for their next expansion, or able to be lured (called smoke stack chasing in the old ec dev language). Yes occasionally a new investor descends unexpectedly on a community – Campbell River was the grateful recipient of a high tech firm who decided that Ottawa or some such did not give staff the quality down time and life that they wanted and that they could after all be located anyplace that had excellent web connections, and choose CR.
Locally, it is also obvious that the long term fall out from Wallys setting up, and later expansion into fresh food, is still working through the retail sector. At the same time it is interesting to see Jimmy Patterson competing with himself in the food biz, how long will that go on for? We are also challenged with four separate business districts, a static and ageing population and generally static disposable income.
And yet as a friend who was born here and recently returned points out, there has been considerable public and private investment here in the past decade or so. Two or more car dealerships, new hotel at the lake, Athletic Hall, liquor stores, Coulson buys Zellers, sale of the old PO, Tug B&B, Kevin Wright expands, Co-op applies for re-zoning, Southside Community Church, Fir Park renno, Solda's, Tandori Junction, Sears relocation, Huu-ay-aht and Uchucklesaht developments, recycle centre and so on.
Sure there are not a significant number of new jobs always associated with this partial list of new investment. And yes there have been disappointments, for example, it does not look like the shipyard expansion will take place any time soon. Yes Argyle, especially below 3rd, is a disaster, where we hope that the reopening of businesses in the condo block, along with the Uchucklesaht will add some new life. But surely all but the most jaded of us need to admit that given the stage of development that Canada is at – low population and wage growth, expansion of web based sales, and other challenges, Port Alberni is not looking too bad.