The new executive director of AdvantageHOPE has a vision for Hope’s economic development.
“If someone came down the road and said, ‘Why should I build in Hope or why should I start a business in Hope?’ Economic development are the ones who say that within three minutes to convince them of the positive reasons why,” said Patrick Earl. “It’s marketing that community. It’s having that sales pitch to developers, investors, new businesses.”
Earl started in his job on Sept. 11, and will receive guidance from outgoing executive director Tammy Shields until the end of the month. Coming from Alberta, Earl said he learned the importance of diversification after the oil and gas slump there.
“Having a diverse mix of employment opportunities, business types and different types of specialties in doing diversified businesses, I think is a long-term, more viable,” said Earl.
Earl explained that a diversified local economy will lead to less volatility if one industry slumps and also provide a variety of opportunities for youth to get job experience and get them interested in starting their own businesses or managing other businesses.
“There’s so much activity moving through Hope — it’s trying to figure out a way to get businesses and industry to use that pinch point as something where they can harness and add to that flow or capture that flow,” said Earl.
Earl has some preliminary ideas on what industries Hope could try to attract, such as logistics companies, agriculture and autonomous driving. Earl explained that Hope sits within a major transportation corridor, hence he wondered whether there were any way for Hope to lead in the autonomous driving field. In terms of agriculture, Earl wondered whether Hope could become a food processing destination before products are shipped east or west.
Earl also pushed the case for diverse housing in Hope. He said that diverse housing can improve the labour market here.
“Nobody wants to put in a business that may have lower-income employees but there’s nowhere for them to live, so they’re actually harder to find,” said Earl.
“And it also allows for the younger people, first-time home buyers, to have options and try to stay in the community because you don’t want to leave and not come back.”
Asked how AdvantageHOPE can influence housing, Earl said they play a role in conversations with developers and municipal staff in topics such as council’s vision, opportunities, land use and planning.
Earl said that tourism plays an important role in Hope and serves as an economic base that other sectors could leverage on. He also said that tourism also contributes to quality of life.
“If you have great tourism assets, it would give people who would want to invest here and the employees they would attract, it gives them great things to do on the recreation side or cultural side, I think that’s the greatest strength for all-sector attraction in Hope,” said Earl.
In an interview with Shields in June, she said that if she could do anything differently, she would put more emphasis on communicating with the community. Asked how Earl would do this, he said AdvantageHOPE could do some outreach.
“We’re talking really recently at talking at the secondary school level to incubate that thought of business development and jobs and training,” said Earl. “And then working with businesses, talking about what they need, where their shortfalls are and if there are sectors that could be talked to, to enhance their businesses.”
Asked what he would do in his first 100 days, Earl said he needs to focus on understanding the projects AdvantageHOPE is undertaking and introduce himself to the community.
“If there’s negatives in the past, it’s the past. We have to focus on opportunities,” said Earl. “Economic development is opportunities … Let’s discuss what can work, not what’s not working.”