By Laura Keil, Publisher
Im always amazed to hear people complain theres no place to buy socks in Valemount. Its become a common rhetorical short-hand for the impending commercial doom of our community. Problem is, its not true. There are at least four places you can buy socks of various colours, sizes and styles: IDA Pharmacy, Mountain Bargain (new socks, not used), Home Hardware, and Alpine Country Rentals.
There is a similar short-hand for the impending doom that will supposedly be wrought by the resort: that it will bring only minimum wage jobs; that locals will be run out of town; and that the only people who will benefit are the investors themselves.
In both cases the socks and the resort theres a need by residents for a feeling of security. We want to know we will be secure where we live and we wont have to move away because of either a commercial collapse or a commercial renaissance.
We have to be careful, however, not to let our fears distort the truth. You can buy socks in Valemount. Much like the resort will bring dozens of high-paying professional jobs to the community. In the 300+ page Master Plan appendix, it shows the breakdown of the jobs that will be created. Yes there are some jobs that may be minimum wage jobs, but many are high-paying professional positions.
Plus, its anticipated that for every 10 jobs created by the resort, another job will be created in town, a number calculated by the Province based on regional factors.
Its also estimated that there will be $140M additional visitor spending in town, not counting the direct spending by the resort itself.
We are already lucky to live in a valley where businesses donate hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to local initiatives. Not to mention the volunteer hours the staff and owners do on their own time. When the economy is stimulated, businesses thrive. They invest and expand. When people make a decent living, they have more time to volunteer.
It may be a leap of faith for some, but we shouldnt assume the development will be our personal doom. We need to ensure issues like housing are addressed but given the number of vacant lots in the village, a need for housing will spur construction. More houses and apartments means less pressure on the market and will help keep rents in check. While other ski resort communities have seen rents increase somewhat with a new resort (like Revelstoke), housing prices have not increased to the same extent.
If we care about children, families and seniors, then we need to think about the benefit more services will bring. Parents want their children to have opportunities ski lessons, music lessons, swimming lessons, French Immersion those things are in short supply at the moment. If the resort gets built, you can bet that families will consider this a more attractive place to settle down. Better medical services will no doubt attract and help retain seniors. And of course more residents means more customers for local shops that provide local jobs.
Few of us will read the entire 300+ page Master Plan before the end of the governments public comments period on Dec. 4th. But that is where the truth lies. If you have concerns talk to someone who has read the Master Plan and familiarize yourself with the proposal.
This isnt an evil corporation swooping down and planting itself on our hillside with only dollar signs in its eyes. This resort was a locally-hatched proposal, and the local people behind it argue it has the communitys best interests in mind. Theres no doubt it will change the community, but I would argue, overall, it will be for the better.
Maybe you can build a resort in China without local support, but you cant do that in B.C. The Province needs to know it will benefit the local community and First Nations in order to avoid a political struggle. The resort planners have worked very hard to create a world-class development that has a relatively low environmental footprint and that makes use of a rare resource we have at our doorstep.
What better way for all of us to make a living?