Will George is a new face in Smithers, and new to his role as the Town of Smithers economic development officer. Hailing from the Lower Mainland, George is enjoying getting to know his new surroundings and the easy pace of life, including his commute to work these days, which is by foot not car.
Most recently George called Maple Ridge home working in the city of Coquitlam and previously in Lytton and Merritt in those municipalities’ economic development, communications and tourism departments.
He has a strong background and working knowledge of business start-up organizations across Canada, including the northern areas of B.C.
“What brought me to Smithers was the opportunity to help build the department from the foundation up. You know, when we were chatting about the role, the creation of the department, there was lots of conversation around the community consultation, working with what the community is looking for, what the businesses are already doing and how they would like to build,” George said.
“What I’m hoping to bring to the town is around the business expansion and attraction, so supporting the current businesses, business attraction, supporting new residents coming to the community. I’ve seen that taxes have been quite high over the last few years and from the economic development lens, supporting that would be bringing in new businesses to help change the burden from residents to more of an equal platform there between industrial, commercial and residential.”
Given the current challenges of housing, that may be a tall order, but George is confident by tapping into existing resources from external partners, this can be achieved.
“I sit as a board member on the B.C. Economic Development Association, the provincial body, and there’s lots of different organizations that individual municipalities can tap into. I’ve previously worked for the Northern Development Initiative Trust, which is a great organization here in the north, so there’s a lot of grants that I feel Smithers has the opportunity to tap into, but there just hasn’t been the capacity within town hall to complete the grants. It’s a three-step program, it’s applying for the funding, implementing the project and then reporting back.”
George anticipates the first couple months here, he will be looking at a land and building inventory to understand what is currently in the Smithers market and to understand some of the challenges for the existing businesses, and similar challenges that might be occurring for new businesses looking to come to the community.
Feeling confident and excited about all the opportunities in the Bulkley Valley inspires George to look to all the possibilities.
“We’re starting to see larger events come back, which helps our local businesses, hotels, everything like that does, and then, of course, the region and the surrounding area of Smithers is gorgeous as well, and has a four-season draw, it is full of possibilities.”
George looks forward to meeting with local business owners and residents. For more information on Economic Development in Smithers or to connect directly with Will, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 250-847-1600.