New image on the way for Port Alberni

More people, more businesses and more money is what Port Alberni needs—and what the city’s branding committee is hoping to bring.

City of Port Alberni economic development manager Pat Deakin enjoys the waterfront at Centennial Pier on a sunny fall day.

More people, more businesses and more money is what Port Alberni needs—and what the city’s branding committee is hoping to bring.

“The specific purpose of re-branding for economic development purposes is more—more money moving into the economy than out, more people moving in than out, more businesses setting up than closing, more visitors,” said economic development manager Pat Deakin.

“Our community was founded on natural resources but the production of commodities has been impacted so we are looking to diversify.”

It’s not only  industry that has changed.

“The internet has changed everything; we’re exposed to over 5,000 marketing messages a day,” said Deakin.

“It’s what Google says we are, not what we say we are.”

And in the same time frame as the internet has emerged, so has the millennial generation—the branding committee’s prime target.

“We’re going fishing where the largest school is and that is the millennials; (they) are the largest demographic in the country at the present time and for some while.”

Deakin was up in front of city council to follow up on an interim branding committee report in the fall. As a result of the interim report, water was chosen as a primary attractant for businesses and residents.

Of the 943 responses to a visitor experience survey carried out this summer, water was considered the community’s main asset.

“People said to us, overwhelmingly, to set ourselves apart from other communities based on our water.”

That, Deakin said, would include both the saltwater Alberni Inlet and the freshwater rivers, streams and lakes in the Valley.

It’s a sentiment that was echoed by Mayor Ruttan at the recent opening of the city’s new UV water treatment plant.

“Water defines our city, it is our history and our future,” said Ruttan on Dec. 2.

Water, Deakin pointed out, is important to all those who live in the Alberni Valley.

“The First Nations view of water gives us another framework to consider for developing our branding,” he said.

The branding committee is in the process of  conducting an asset inventory for the Alberni Valley. While Deakin said that the inventory was in progress, some of the assets identified so far are the Alberni Inlet, the MV Frances Barkley, the Polar Bear Swim, the Alberni Downwind Canal Challenge, kite boarding and fishing derbies.

“How do we access these opportunities? How do we market them? Who’s our contact locally? How do we use these as a platform to attract business, to attract visitors, to attract residents?”

But most importantly, Deakin said, Port Alberni needs a new image.

“We realize that underneath it all there’s a need to create a new image of our community.”

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