Seven goals guide AdvantageHOPE when carrying out their economic development mandate, said its executive director Tammy Shields at the March 21 annual general meeting.
Shields said that they focus on population growth, creating sustainable jobs, protection of the quality of life, creating a diversified economic base, promoting a business-friendly environment, becoming recognized as a provincial tourism destination and developing a vibrant downtown core.
Her data shows that they are achieving their goals — the latest census data showed that Hope has had a population growth.
“Population is up in Hope 3.6 per cent over the last census. It trails the population gain nationally, but remember that the five years prior in Hope we had declining population,” said Shields. “So we’ve turned that trend around and it’s going in the right direction.”
Shields also pointed to the enrolment in Fraser-Cascade School District 78, where in 2015 and 2016, enrolment increased. Shields said that if these trends held for the five years in the same time the population grew 3.6 per cent, that could mean that school board enrolment has increased at a faster pace than population growth.
“It would be great to see that demographic shifting to a younger age in town,” said Shields.
Shields also pointed to Canada Revenue Agency data to talk about sustainable jobs. In 2009, there were 545 businesses reporting income to the CRA.
“The last number [was] 1,211,” said Shields. “That’s a 112 per cent increase in the number of businesses reporting income from Hope. It’s a great number.”
In terms of quality of life, Shields pointed to the housing market. Average house prices have reached $312,000, which is up 34 per cent over the last five years and up 23 per cent over last year. Last year, the total volume of sales was $64.6 million over 207 sales. This translates to a 243 per cent increase over the last five years and 48 per cent over the last year.
To show a diversified economy, Shields pointed to latest available census data, from 2011. It shows five key business sectors — health care and social assistance, retail, accommodation and food, construction and transportation and warehousing — make up 57 per cent of the labour force in Hope.
“That means that the other 43 per cent is spread out over the others, which looks like pretty good diversification, actually,” said Shields. “I think we would like to see some other sectors move up the list and take up a bigger portion of the pie here.
“It’s something that we’re putting an eye to and trying to figure out how to measure this point forward.”
For business friendliness, Shields pointed to the increase in business licences applications in the District of Hope. In 2014, the District had 299. Today, they have 375. Building permits have also increased from 39 to 64 in the same time period, with permit values going from $2.9 million to $7.8 million.
Their business walks have also showed them that most business owners would recommend Hope as a place to do business.
Shields said that Hope is also likely one of the leading places in tourism in British Columbia.
“We’ve really raised our profile in the world of tourism,” said Shields. She pointed to their social media numbers — their Facebook page likes have gone up 63 per cent to 2,084 and their Embrace the Journey video has been viewed 137,000 since launching last year.