Smithers will soon be getting an economic development officer (EDO).
“Economic development is council’s number one priority,” said Alan Harris, the Town’s new chief administrative officer (CAO).
“The hiring will probably take place in the new year. I’m going back to council with some information in relation to the position and, as the new CAO, how I see the position working because it’s a combination of both economic development and community development, so I just want to make sure I have a full understanding of how council wants to proceed.”
Acting mayor Frank Wray said that will happen at a yet-to-be scheduled Committee of the Whole meeting.
Harris said the meeting will likely be held in November to get clear of the federal election, which could leave the Town without a mayor. If that is the case, though, he said they will not wait until after a byelection to act on the hiring of the EDO.
Wray was not able to provide any specific activities the new EDO will engage in or avenues they will explore, but said that will all be hashed out in the coming weeks.
“I’m confident it will be a good process and I’m anxious to get it up and running,” Wray said.
“I think what we want to do is make sure there’s some kind of work plan that we can point to and tell people… these are the areas [the EDO is] going to be concentrating on and we want to make sure they’re always able to take advantage of any opportunities that are out there as well.”
Smithers has been without an EDO for two years since the Town and Regional District of Bulkley-Nachako decided to cut off funding to the Bulkley Valley Economic Development Agency (BVEDA).
“We tried the arms length organization and it had some success, to be sure, but I think council wanted to move in a different direction,” Wray said.
“I think BVEDA did a really good job, but this will give council a little more input.”
To inform his report to council, Harris has met with the Chamber of Commerce and other community groups.
Sheena Miller, Chamber of Commerce manager, was thrilled with the news.
“I think it is much needed and very important for the Smithers area especially someone who has a background in that, who can really respond to a lot of the inquiries and questions and opportunities that come in almost daily to the Chamber of Commerce,” she said.
The position is being funded in part by a economic capacity building grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT).