Hope is on the radar for economic development funds, according to B.C. Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell.
He stopped by district hall on Tuesday morning with Liberal byelection candidate Laurie Throness to discuss the provincial jobs plan with council and find out about local economic development priorities.
“When I look at Hope, I think of it as the barometer of British Columbia and the interface between urban and rural B.C.,” he said. “When Hope does well, it means that probably both elements are working well. But if Hope is challenged, it means we’re probably not doing something right in one of those two areas.”
Bell identified six key areas for economic opportunities, including forestry, mining, agri-food, tourism, international education and natural gas. Upgrading Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park and setting a consistent operating season to increase tourist flow was a local priority that Bell said aligns well with the jobs plan to expand backcountry opportunities relating to adventure tourism.
Tapping into the natural gas industry was also identified as a key economic strategy. Bell said Hope’s geographic location at the centre of four provincial highways makes it ideal to develop an initiative around liquified natural gas as a transportation fuel.
Another opportunity Bell is looking into is the possibility of relocating Haig Fire Base across the Fraser River to Hope Airpark. This move would provide a more stable helicopter landing environment and generate economic traffic in the region, he said. During the peak of summer, Bell pointed out there can be several hundred people stationed in a fire base.
Throness acknowledged the community efforts that are driving many of the local economic opportunities.
“I think council is really doing a great job pursuing job creation and that internal momentum is really key. We can only help,” he said. “I really feel optimistic about Hope. It is at a point of transition and change, rather that at a point of decline.”
Bell said he’ll be taking the information from Tuesday’s meeting back to the various ministries in Victoria and provide feedback to the district within the next few weeks.
“If you don’t try and move this stuff down the road within two, three or four weeks, often times it gets buried and people forget about it,” he added. “My principle has always been of one to react quickly.”