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By: Jared Smith

Valemount’s second economic roundtable discussions got underway last Tuesday. The event attracted many stakeholders in the Valley’s development including MP Cathy McLeod, representatives of MLA Shirley Bond, Terry McEachen and Ken Starchuck of the Regional District, architect and resort developer Oberto Oberti, and Doug Brown of Simpcw First Nations. Many locals also participated including Village representatives, local business owners, and interested citizens.

Constructing a genuine blue-stain roundtable to accommodate everyone who attended might have been enough economic stimulus for the valley for the remainder of 2011.

Jokes aside, the meeting began with a sense of anticipation for the agenda’s presentations. Regional District’s Terry McEachen presented the “Canoe Robson Valleys Economic Opportunities Plan” which outlined guiding principles upon which future development could be based.

Building on what he covered at the previous roundtable discussion, Oberto Oberti presented “The Importance of Tourism and Diversification for the Region.” Oberto drew upon his experience developing Golden into a premier ski resort destination with the Kicking Horse Resort. His excitement was apparent as he spoke about the valley’s climate, geography, and topography as being key ingredients to a successful mountain tourism destination. He reiterated the importance of broad community support in making such projects a reality.

Next up was Borealis Geopower’s Tim Thompson via conference call. Thompson’s presentation conveyed the enormous unrealized potential of BC’s, and more specifically, the Canoe Reach’s geothermal resources.

Thompson said the planned 10Mw geothermal plant would produce no emissions, have a relatively small footprint in terms of land, and could be operating in as few as three to five years. At this time, the biggest obstacle seemed to be collecting the baseline data for geothermal potential, a time and resource consuming venture for which Thompson is hoping for government support. Thompson finished his presentation with the benefits the community would enjoy from its proximity to the project, including being a broker for the waste heat for commercial ventures.

Doug Brown, a representative of the Simpcw First Nations, spoke about “The Role of First Nations in Local Economic Development.” Brown commented on the Simpcw’s desire to develop mutually beneficial partnerships between themselves and their non aboriginal neighbours and friends. He noted the importance of healthy communities in terms of infrastructure and social capacity.

The conference ended with a discussion regarding how the different levels of government (municipal, regional, provincial, and federal) can assist local communities in making projects progress through the various levels of bureaucratic decision making and begin development. Mayor Bob Smith noted that Silvio Gislimberti, Valemount’s economic development officer can liaison between interest groups and help with cooperation.

Next week members of Valemount Council and Mayor are headed to the Union of BC Municipalities Conference being held in Vancouver Sept. 26-30th where they will have the opportunity to address concerns with politicians and stakeholders.