I’ve written before that City Council cannot directly create private sector jobs or demand that companies invest in our community, we can only attempt to create conditions that are attractive to investors and job creators. Over the past few months, Council’s efforts to create those conditions has advanced substantially on a number of fronts with considerable help from the provincial government.
Last week, we received notice that four of our strategic initiatives will receive financial support from the province’s Rural Dividend Fund: the formalization of our macro-economic development strategy and vision, the creation of a technical plan and vision for the development of our riverfront properties (Fraser and Quesnel Rivers and Baker Creek), a two-year comprehensive community marketing initiative, and a major investment in the development and marketing of the mountain bike and hiking/running trails surrounding the City (a partnership initiative with the Cariboo Regional District).
All of these projects, which represent an investment of almost a million dollars, will advance our desire to become a destination community that people deliberately plan to come to as visitors, residents, and investors (rather than simply being known as a “beautiful community to drive through”).
A sub-strategy of this destination initiative is to become a “hosting” community; that is, a community that attracts major events, conferences, conventions, sports competitions, and concerts because we have the right kinds of amenities and facilities to make hosting these events attractive and affordable. The economic multiplier effect of hosting events is significant and lasting, if we do a good job of promoting our community when people are here for those events.
To help us attract more events to the region, the North Cariboo Joint Committee (NCJC, which consists of the four Northern Directors of the Cariboo Regional District and all members of City Council) has created a new events coordinator position. This individual will not only assist organizations to apply to host bigger events, she will also provide insight to the NCJC about what investments are needed in our public amenities and spaces to attract more and bigger events.
Last week, to support this strategy, we submitted a major “hosting” project to the Northern Development Initiative Trust’s (NDIT) new Strategic Initiatives Fund. If successful, the funding from the Trust will enable us to aesthetically and technologically integrate the new West Fraser Centre with the Curling Rink and Arena 2. The plaza surrounding these facilities will get a significant upgrade using the same beautification and gateway features we’ll be installing on Reid Street this summer (integrating those two parts of downtown). Two new murals will also be created on the Curling Rink and Arena 2 walls that border the parking lot.
In short, if we’re successful in our grant application, we will be able to create a beautiful, modern, integrated, and attractive hosting venue in our downtown core that will enable us to attract major events and enjoy the direct and indirect economic benefits that come with them.
The West Fraser Centre is already attracting major tournaments, as evidenced by this week’s BC Midget Hockey Provincial Championships and next year’s BC Men’s Curling Championships in February. The City has also been invited to apply to host the Minerals North Conference in 2020. These events will bring significant profile to our community and we hope that the amenities and infrastructure investments we’re making will give such a positive impression of Quesnel to those attending these events that they will become repeat visitors and maybe even new residents and job creating investors.