New residents to Port Alberni love the outdoorsy, small-town feel and the big-city amenities, a Welcome Wagon survey has found. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

New residents to Port Alberni love the outdoorsy, small-town feel and the big-city amenities, a Welcome Wagon survey has found. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

PROGRESS 2018: What brings people to Port Alberni?

City, Welcome Wagon are finding answers from people moving to Alberni

What makes people decide to move to the Alberni Valley? A survey from the city of Port Alberni and the Port Alberni Welcome Wagon is asking that question.

For the past two years, new residents in the community who are signed up with the Welcome Wagon are provided with a pen and USB stick, courtesy of the city of Port Alberni. The USB stick provides information about the city, helpful links and directions to local amenities, but it also provides a link to a survey for new residents.

People who move to Port Alberni “just like the idea of being in a smaller community,” explained the city’s economic development manager Pat Deakin.

“The greatest number of responses have had to do around housing affordability,” Deakin said. “The next biggest area is outdoor recreation opportunities.”

The greatest number of new residents moved to Port Alberni from the Lower Mainland, although many also moved from other parts of Vancouver Island.

“Most of them said they had heard about Port Alberni from a friend, or they drove through the area and decided to check the place out,” said Deakin.

The Welcome Wagon has been operating in Port Alberni for a little more than two years. Megan Warrender launched the program in March 2016—before that, it had been absent from the community for 10-15 years.

The city of Port Alberni was one of the first of the program’s 36 sponsors.

“They are a very big support to what I do,” said Warrender. “They jumped on board right away with great information and directories.”

Not all new residents fill out the city’s survey, but those who have are divided fairly evenly between millennials (age 20-40), people from 41-59 years of age and seniors (60+). The biggest areas of work identified in Port Alberni are in the tourism/hospitality sector, as well as health care.

“An equal number are bringing their own jobs with them,” added Deakin, citing residents who work online.

Last year, the Alberni Valley Employment Centre had a total of 2,171 postings for an estimated 2,929 positions in Port Alberni, Tofino, Ucluelet and Bamfield. As of May 8, 2018, their website had 90 current job openings in Port Alberni alone.

“There are jobs here,” Deakin emphasized.

Some new residents provided advice for advertising the city: focus around affordability, focus on daycare and let people know what kind of amenities and shopping exists in the area. “A small-town feel with big-city amenities,” Deakin summarized.

The city’s economic development department plans to use the information gleaned from this survey in their marketing strategies moving forward. “We’re really focused on two main pillars, or approaches, to the economy,” said Deakin. “Lifestyle improvements, and job creation in the community.”

Warrender will be launching a Welcome Wagon program in Ucluelet next month, and a Welcome Wagon magazine is now being published. New Port Alberni residents who are interested in connecting with the Welcome Wagon service can visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/welcomewagonpa.

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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