Sandy Elzinga, assistant manager of Community Futures Boundary, recently appeared before both the Midway and Greenwood councils to provide an overview of services provided by organization to the people of the Boundary.
Community Futures has been working on economic development in the Boundary since 1992, she explained. They have offices in Grand Forks and Greenwood; and employ 15 full-time and part-time employees. It is a non-profit organization directed by a volunteer board that all reside in the Boundary.
Core service areas for CFB include employment services, tourism initiatives, business services and community economic development.
Elzinga said the employment portfolio is funded primarily through the WorkBC program. Activities in this area include wage subsidy programs, self-employment assistance, job-creation projects, bridging program for women with a life skills component, job options workshops for unemployed individuals and an inclusive communities program that boasts a website listing services available to area newcomers.
CFB works under contract with the Boundary Economic Development Committee (BEDC) on community economic development issues. This group is composed of local elected officials from across the Boundary who meet monthly to coordinate regional economic development.
Website development (boundarybc.ca) and tourism guides are key tourism initiatives carried out by CFB. Tourism and “open for business” billboards have been erected. CFB also partners with the BEDC and the Boundary Country Regional Chamber of Commerce to pay for four pages of advertising in a regional visitors’ guide. They also maintain bank of some 4,000 images that can be used to promote the area. CFB continues to work on regional branding signage and logos.
CFB advertises in the Kettle River Express visitor guide and has attended the Vancouver trade show in the past. There are plans in the works that might see the City of Grand Forks and CFB partnering to make Boundary tourism information available in Calgary in 2015.
Business services are sponsored primarily by Western Diversification and include business loans and consultation. Elzinga said that CFB has a $2.7 million loan portfolio that in the last fiscal year wrote $1,118,341.08 in loans to new or existing businesses in the region. “$452,000 of that was in the West Boundary area and $211,000 specifically for Greenwood,” she said. Across the Boundary this program created 25.5 new jobs and 23 existing jobs were maintained.
Business retention and expansion are covered through regional membership in Invest Kootenay and Venture Connect. The annual cost of the two memberships is over $12,000 so the sharing the cost across the region makes it possible for all businesses to participate.
Invest Kootenay provides an opportunity for any Boundary-based business that is for sale to advertise free of charge; while, for a fee Venture Connect will help business owners who wish to sell to prepare their enterprise for market.
Elzinga added that CFB works with local government, industry and community organizations to support them in grant writing, business planning, focus groups and collaborating with activities.
Elzinga closed by inviting council members to attend Venture Connect info sessions on Sept. 23 in Grand Forks. An afternoon session will cover attracting new entrepreneurs and supporting existing business; in the evening business succession planning will be covered.