Golden Mayor talks economic development

Economic development is on council’s radar at the moment, especially with the uncertain future of GAI.

Summer may be the slow season in the political world, but Town of Golden Mayor Christina Benty is keeping busy, and preparing for an eventful fall.

Economic development is on council’s radar at the moment, especially with the uncertain future of Golden’s economic development services body.

“We’ve presented to the CAO and regional director of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District) CSRD, and currently the CAO is drawing up a memorandum of understanding,” said Benty.

Last month, following a report from the Economic Development Service Vision Committee, council voted to continue economic development services, provided the CSRD continues to provide their share of the funding.

“So essentially we’re in discussions with the CSRD for municipally overseeing economic development with a regional focus.”

In the meantime, GAI is continuing to operate as usual, and has an upcoming project that Benty is very excited about.

“The BRE (Business Retention and Expansion) program is a significant project for GAI,” said Benty. “I’ve wanted to see this done for years, so I’m glad we’re finally doing it.”

The BRE project surveys businesses to gather vital information about the economic climate in Golden, the successes, problems, and opportunities.

“One of my goals around this is getting information that will help us improve the legislative environment, and in turn improve the economic climate.”

For more on the BRE project see story on page 2.

The municipality is a major factor in the local economy, because of its legislation, but also because of its spending.

“I went to a workshop at the College of the Rockies that dealt with local ownership and spending, and it was really interesting. It was talking about how to contribute to local prosperity,” said Benty.

In 2012, the municipality put $2 million back into the Golden economy through its major capital expenditures. That’s $2 million into the hands of suppliers and contractors, who turn around and spend in the community.

“We do have some limitations, but for the most part, we actually spend a fair amount of money locally,” said Benty. “We’re spending residential and business tax payer dollars back into local businesses.”

Coming up in the fall, the Town is looking at what they want to accomplish at UBCM. They already have meetings set up with several ministers to discuss what the priorities are for Golden.

They have a meeting with both Premier Christy Clark and the Minister of Transportation to discuss Highway 1 projects.

“We want to make sure the Kicking Horse Canyon project stays on the radar, we’d like to see that finish,” said Benty.

Also high on the list are issues surrounding flood prevention. Golden was fortunate this year to have escaped the disasters in Canmore and High River, but that doesn’t mean it will be as lucky next year.

“I think it’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen, it’s when,” said Benty.

The municipality will be requesting that the province take back the responsibility of diking for communities under 5,000.

“They need to take that responsibility back for small communities. We just can’t do it.”

There is no saying if or when this will happen, so they will also be requesting that the province change it’s policy of gravel removal so that the Town will have more flexibility to extract from the Kicking Horse River.

“Right now we have to reach a certain level of gravel before we can even apply for grants to get into the river,” said Benty. “I think there’s a perception that we can just go in and take gravel out. We can’t do that, there’s lots of hoops we have to jump.”

Benty also plans to bring a resolution before council to cease in granting flood plane exemptions in Golden.

“In light of the floods, what’s been happening across the border and south of us, I think we should seriously consider not granting any flood plain exemptions.”