Community Futures Alberni-Clayoquot has spent the past decade helping small business in the Alberni Valley and beyond. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

BC-based rural dividends help rural communities diversify their economies

Five Alberni Valley projects receive hundreds of thousands in grant funding

The Mid-Island has been infused with nearly $2 million of rural dividend funding, which will help five organizations in the Alberni Valley as well as four more on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

“I’m really pleased,” Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser said. “These projects will help local communities advance many important initiatives, such as expanding the use of clean hydro power, improving food security, training local workers and building business opportunities.”

The grants come from the BC Rural Dividend Program and help fund projects that support economic development and diversification in rural communities throughout the province.

“It’s an important fund for communities like ours,” Fraser said of the Alberni Valley. “Challenges are different in rural ridings other than in cities.

“Some of these applications are the best I’ve seen for helping their communities.”

In the Alberni Valley:

• Community Futures Development Corporation of Alberni-Clayoquot is being awarded $493,000 to develop and launch the Great BC Businesses Sale, which will showcase opportunities in rural B.C. and offer education to communities and business owners.

• Hupacasath First Nation is being awarded $100,000 for Phase 2 of the Community Farm Project, which will expand its size, complete a greenhouse, overhaul drip-line irrigation and install a farm-gate stand and tool shed.

• Huu-ay-aht First Nations is being awarded $100,000 to finalize interconnection design with BC Hydro and determine whether the Sarita River Hydropower Project can operate on its own in the event of a widespread power interruption.

• Port Alberni Shelter Society is being awarded $141,000 to hire farm staff and install equipment at the Shelter Farm Training Institute and launch a program at the site to train youth in small-scale farming.

• The City of Port Alberni is being awarded $100,000 for the first year of a five-year campaign to attract new residents and workers. It will begin by determining concerns and perceptions about the city, identifying the best target markets and looking for ways to refine current efforts.

Lori Camire, executive director with Community Futures, said their grant will go toward a program they are calling the Great BC Businesses Sale, a province-wide initiative based in Port Alberni.

“Port Alberni is the lead on this to expose small businesses that are for sale in BC to potential buyers,” she said. One way to attract youth to rural parts of BC is by outlining entrepreneurial opportunities, she added.

“We’re hopeful young families will take the challenge and move to the area.”

Succession planning is something in which Community Futures is well versed: they have been studying the issue for a few years, and are the lead office for Venture Connect, another province-wide program designed to strengthen communities through business retention.

“We recognized about a decade ago that we need to assist retiring business owners” in making their businesses attractive to buyers, Camire said. Demographics “aren’t being kind” because there is a disproportionate number of people retiring vs. younger people getting into business, she added.

Other communities in the Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding receiving rural dividend grants included the District of Tofino ($100,000 to complete detailed engineered design documents for the downtown revitalization project on Campbell Street) and Westcoast Community Resources Society in Ucluelet ($33,101 to hire staff and create a seniors’ hub program). Ahousaht First Nation was awarded $86,740 to develop a technology production lab to foster new business ideas and concepts; Hesquiaht First Nation received nearly $500,000 for a new 350-kilowatt micro-hydropower energy system at Hot Springs Cove; and Toquaht Nation received $100,000 for preliminary designs to support development of a marina and campground at Secret Beach.

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