From the City of Quesnel:
It was a full house of key decision makers on Wednesday, Oct 30th in Quesnel, gathered from the region and surrounding area to pool resources, identify action to support the community and set immediate regional economic priorities as part of the Quesnel Regional Economic Collaborative (REC).
In attendance were representatives from municipalities, regional districts, the province, First Nations, local agencies, and economic development professionals.
The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training has been actively engaged with Quesnel and surrounding communities since January 2013 as part of the Enhanced Community Economic Support Initiatives - which is an initiative intended to bring communities together to set regionally important, short term economic development priorities and to work together to advance these priorities.
In April the community representatives and key economic development agencies identified economic priorities related to tourism product development, business and labour market development and key infrastructure. Yesterday's meeting built on work to-date and engaged a larger group of communities and agency representatives to identify next steps.
With last week's announcements of next year's mill closures by Canfor in Quesnel and West Fraser in Houston, this REC also focused on ensuring community and agency representatives within and around Quesnel, along with the Provincial government, are combining efforts and resources to support workers, family members, contractors, suppliers and the broader community as the impacts from the closure materialize over the coming months.
Through WorkBC, College of New Caledonia, Service Canada, Community Futures and other agencies, community members will have access to numerous supports including career counselling, job matching, skills upgrading, business start up support, financial advice and potential retraining.
Additionally, participants initiated work plans to:
* Ensure impacts to suppliers and contractors are assessed and ensure they have access to employment and community programs and supports.
* Promote greater support of the local business community and buying local, now and through the holiday season.
* Upgrade and market heritage tourism product and integrate First Nations heritage tourism products.
* Prioritize projects within the Quesnel area that will create jobs and diversify the economy into the future and ensure the City and Province are working to support those projects.
Further work will be undertaken in the coming weeks to move work plans into actions and to ensure support services are in place for all those affected.
The Hon. Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour stated:
"The Province of British Columbia has already invested more than $900 million in tackling the challenges from the Mountain Pine Beetle and has been working with communities to plan their economic futures. The forum that was held on Wednesday utilized the work that has been done previously to inform a strategy and action plan to deal with the impacts of the upcoming mill closure and stimulate economic diversification."
The Hon. Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development also said:
"Yesterday's Economic Collaborative in Quesnel was an excellent example of how the community along with governments at both municipal and provincial levels can work together to find creative solutions to weathering economic changes. Through this constructive discussion, we were able to share immediate concerns as well as work on long range planning. Quesnel continues to be a resilient community, thanks to the collective leadership of both the province and the City of Quesnel."
Finally, Mary Sjostrom, Mayor of the City of Quesnel commented on the REC -
"The City of Quesnel would like to thank the Province for the partnership developed through the Economic Collaborative and their support in our resource-based community. The City's goal is about long-term diversification and economic support for local business and we look forward to working with the Province on the next steps. We are optimistic about our community's future and its residents."