Deakin lobbies city for more staff

Economic development office ‘stretched thin’ with requests from all directions, manager says.

Port Alberni economic development manager Pat Deakin is one step closer to upping his workforce.

The city’s economic development office currently consists of one-and-a-half people: Deakin and his half-time assistant Stephanie Stephens.

While Deakin said it hadn’t been decided whether or not he would receive another half-time position or upgrade the current one to full time, council gave him and director of corporate services Theresa Kingston $50,000 for the new proposed half-time position.

(The city has yet to adopt its financial plan or finalize the budget.)

Much of that, Kingston said, will go towards benefits received by full-time employees that the half-time position does not get.

For Deakin, whose workload has been likened to that of “a performer spinning pie plates, trying to keep them all up in the air,” the half-time position help will make a huge difference in what his department is able to do.

“It would allow us an ability to go out after people operating in a particular sector.”

Currently, Deakin said, his office is so swamped that they’re often left letting people come to them.

Deakin gave the example of an individual working in the high-tech sector for whom their place of residence didn’t matter.

“What we could do faster, more completely and better would be find all of the associations, companies, websites, Facebook pages or magazines that these folks subscribe to and issue indications to them to come check the community out.”

That’s something Mayor Mike Ruttan and council would like to see happen.

“We believe there is a lot of work for actually helping new companies work through the process of getting themselves set up,” Ruttan said, adding that “it’s difficult when there’s just one-and-a-half people to make that occur.”

If given the extra help, Deakin said he would see the much-bemoaned lack of brochures on the ferry dealt with.

He’d also be able to tackle the lack of external marketing, something Ruttan is keen to see happen.

“As a city council we believe that marketing Port Alberni is a huge need but it’s not one that we’re able to address given the personnel,” Ruttan said.

“Having the additional half-time person would allow us to focus on that outreach work,” instead of being swamped with ad requests for various publications.

“You’ll bail on meetings, priorities, phone calls you should be making to get it done,” Deakin said, adding that their in-house expertise ends up stretched thin.

It’s a city hall wide problem, Deakin said, that stretches across departments.

“I’m grateful to get the opportunity.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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