From Africa to Ontario to B.C., an economic development officer has made his home in Telkwa.
Richard Darko has recently been hired as the Village’s new economic development officer and is so far loving the community.
He previously held a similar position in a small village in Ghana before deciding to come to Canada to better his education.
He moved across the globe in 2015 by himself after a few friends had made the same trek. He started out in Ontario and studied at the University of Guelph before realizing British Columbia’s education system was less expensive. He attended UNBC in Prince George and obtained his masters in development economics.
While the lure of a less expensive lifestyle brought him out west, he said Northern B.C.’s beautiful territory and lakes and rivers kept him here.
“It is a nice community, the environment and the bodies of water, and the fishing and hiking,” he said about Telkwa. “It is a good adventure and this is a good opportunity to live in the north. When you are in PG, you think that is the north but when you get here then you see that there are a lot of beautiful things in the north.”
He was excited about the opportunity to move to Telkwa and take on the role of economic development officer. Darko said the position is similar to the one he held in Ghana.
“I was familiar with the working terrain, the community development, the economic development, stakeholder engagement, working with businesses,” he explained. “I was motivated to work with the Village. Most importantly, coming from Ghana and coming from a village and having worked with that village, and helping them to build up economic development.”
He said the biggest difference in his previous job and this one is the way people think, but other than that, economic development is the same in all small communities.
He got into the field because economics and helping communities grow are passions of his.
“All my working life, I’ve been working closely with communities to come up with strategies to help them develop, look at opportunities and leverage those opportunities and deal with the weaknesses and help them grow. That has been in my fibre,” he said.
He worked in a small village before and the size of Telkwa doesn’t scare him.
“If small communities don’t grow, it won’t translate to growth at the macro level. When smaller communities are growing, it is a reflection of what is happening at the national level. I’m more interested in helping smaller communities grow. At the end of the day, if that doesn’t happen, the growth we see is not a reflection of the entire nation or country,” he added.
He has big goals for Telkwa and is hoping to attract more business to the region and encourage more people to call Telkwa home.
“The biggest challenge here is a housing deficit,” he said. “The question is how to close that. When I came, the community was in the process of completing a housing assessment and that is now done. They are looking at ways to implement that assessment.”
The housing survey was done earlier this summer and found that Telkwa is becoming increasingly more expensive for both renters and buyers with a need for more affordable housing and smaller home options.
He said if Telkwa Coal starts up, that will help attract more people and business and then possibly more housing, but only if it is done right.
“Telkwa Coal coming on board, that will be a full crew around which economic development will take off here because of a lot of businesses and people will want to come here,” he said. “But we have seen historically, or previously, in terms of mining communities, the mine workers live outside and come in to work because of the shift system. It is all about engagement and dialogue how to forge a relationship and have the workers live here to improve the fortunes of the community.”
Darko has no plans to leave Telkwa anytime soon and doesn’t want to move back to Africa. He still has family there that he would like to visit but for the foreseeable future, the Bulkley Valley is home.