I feel relieved after the Valemount Glacier Destinations resort’s presentation of its Master Plan for a few reasons:
1. By involving the Simpcw First Nations from the beginning, the developers want to get this right.
2. The Developers have the money to complete the first phase, which means that they’re not just selling us dreams.
3. The developers want our input to help shape the project.
At the end of phase one, we will see about 50-70 jobs at the resort. It means some jobs for locals already here and some newcomers. The resort is not going to increase the population back to 1200 anytime soon.
While I am excited that things are happening, we need to look beyond the resort to sustain Valemount and here’s why:
1. Tourists rarely buy socks while on holidays
I often hear that there’s no place to buy socks in Valemount. The resort will cater to tourists and result in an expansion of services that tourists need – more accommodation, restaurants, souvenir / gift outlets and equipment rental shops. Although tourists might make the odd grocery or retail purchase, they will not help bring back stores to provide what Stedmans, Valemount Clothing & Sporting or Fields did.
2. Us versus Them
Being a tourist community, I already feel a disconnect between the businesses that cater to locals and those aimed at tourists because each has a different clientele and different challenges to expand its customer base. Relying on tourism as the primary answer to Valemount’s economy will increase that divide.
3. Less Community Engagement
One of the things I love about Valemount is knowing the people. I like talking to Funky Goat Dave on my walk home or Russell at the post office when I pick my mail after work as well as scrambling to counter Spaz Dave’s arguments when he visits my store. I also like getting to know new people who move here. So while the resort is very important, I would like to see more people live here long-term, as compared to tourists passing through or a place for secondary homes.
We need to consider “home-grown” solutions to increase Valemount’s economy and population, such as:
1. More locally owned businesses: On average, for every $100 spent, a locally owned business spends $45 in the community as compared to $13 recirculated by a non-locally owned business. This means more dollars that stay in the community when the business is locally owned.
2. Buying Local: Improved highways, box stores in adjacent towns, ease of internet shopping and closure of some stores in Valemount means that it is easy not to buy local. Local store owners not only spend more here but also donate and participate more locally. As a business owner, I need to ensure better working conditions, living wages and good customer service as I have to look into the eyes of my staff and customers everyday.
What can you do?
I am not trying to guilt you to spend every dollar in the community. However, where you spend determines if Valemount’s school population continues to dwindle or not, if we continue to have wonderful doctors at our Clinic, if there’s enough locally-aimed stores and services, like when you really need that printer ink for your child’s school project today, and if there’s enough volunteers to run the clubs that provide activities for recreation, children and seniors.
Consider a 10% shift to buying more products and services locally. To understand more, watch this provincial video that also features our very own Gathering Tree: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpgeuhL165o
By buying local, you will not only play a part in creating more jobs, but also meet and know your community when you spend more time in local stores.
I believe the community can pool its resources and sync with the energy and excitement of the resort development to co-create Valemount’s future.