The Province of B.C. is working with locals to increase economic development in the Valley.

The Ministry of Jobs Tourism and Skills Training held a Business Retention and Expansion workshop at the Best Western on Thursday, Nov. 24. The workshop was put on in partner with the B.C. Economic Development Association and Columbia Basin Trust.

The workshop is geared toward local elected officials, Economic Development Officers, Chambers of Commerce, First Nations staff, municipal government staff and community representatives involved in economic development, according to Myles Bruns, the Ministry’s regional manager for the Thompson, Central- Okanagan and Robson Valley regions.

“The workshop is intended to assist communities in expanding their capacity, knowledge and skill sets to ensure economic sustainability and future growth,” says Bruns.

Many community leaders were in attendance, including representatives of the Simpcw First Nation, municipal employees, RDFFG, RVSS, WorkSafeBC, Valemount Geothermal Society, and other small businesses.

“The workshop focuses on how communities can effectively retain and help grow their existing businesses,” he says.

Smaller local businesses, like Three Ranges Brewing Co. or The Gathering Tree, are good examples of how workshops like this one can be positive for the community, according to Rundi Anderson, co-owner of Three Ranges.

“It’s always positive when we get a group of like-minded people together who want to see (Valemount and McBride) grow and prosper,” says Anderson.

“Every business counts… Small business is absolutely vital to the Valley’s economy,” she says.

Having discussions about business retention and expansion, according to Anderson, equips the community with useful tools, while fostering a solid understanding of economic development practices, she says.

Rick Thompson, a councillor on McBride’s Village Council, and co-owner of McBride Self Storage and The Historic McKale House Gifts and Used Books, and Guest House, says though the workshop was similar to others he has attended, he says it was good to have new faces around the table. “A new participant means new ideas,” says Thompson, noting that some of the ideas from the workshop can be applied to McBride’s economy.

“Small business is the lifeblood of rural B.C., and we need to do everything we can to keep what we have and attract more,” says Thompson.

“If every building on Main Street (in McBride) had a small business operating, employing one or two people, we would be in a much better position than we are now.”