AdvantageHOPE’s asset development in-charge Stephanie Hooker focused her presentation at the March 21 annual general meeting (AGM) on the Rural Dividend Fund, which they received this month.
Her presentation revealed additional details about how they intend to spend the $499,948 fund. The total project that they will undertake over two years adds up to $858,000, with an additional $358,299 pitched in via matching funds and in-kind contributions from their partners.
She said that AdvantageHOPE’s success in getting this grant lied in using ready-to-go projects within the Integrated Official Community Plan (IOCP), which had community support, tangible outcomes and matching money from other organizations.
“The really wonderful thing about being able to leverage Rural Dividend is that you get to accelerate these plans,” she said.
One of those plans within the IOCP includes amenity development, such as recreational trails, which she said improves the quality of life for residents and improves tourists’ impression of Hope.
“I remember cold calling transportation-sector companies and saying you should move your business to Hope. Our location is outstanding,” said Hooker, referring to a time around 2009-2010. “The answer was always … ‘Yeah, Hope on a map makes sense, but none of my managers and skilled employees would move their families there.”
Her logic was that everyone experiences Hope as a visitor, and then their impression of Hope helps them envision whether they would move their families to Hope.
“When everyone wants to live here, they bring their families and their businesses with them,” she said.
Besides amenity development, she also highlighted the marketing aspects, which includes a downtown visitor information portal and lifestyle marketing. Their marketing would also focus on attracting targeted sectors such as professionals, highly-educated people, technology, clean water and agricultural sectors.
“Our economic base is pretty diverse but there’s certain sectors we really want to see expanding and rising a little bit,” she said.
Some partnerships she highlighted include working with the Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning on the Hudson’s Bay Company 1849 Heritage Trail to put a map and promotional material together. Also, they will work with the Hope Food Collective to help improve food security.
Another initiative that AdvantageHOPE is carrying out is the Municipal Regional District Tax (MRDT), otherwise known as the hotel tax.
The MRDT was the subject of the only question during the question and answer period at the end of the meeting.
Former board chair Kent McKinnon said Hope is one of the few communities in B.C. that does not collect this.
“So with the magnitude of travellers through, it seems like a no-brainer. It opens up a new line of funding for programs like marketing — brochures and all the different programs we talked about — right now that [come] out of our base funding.”
They will host a tourism strategy action committee meeting on April 12 to hear more ideas and thoughts outside of AdvantageHOPE. Interested parties can register at the Hope Visitor Centre.