Each year in B.C. and in Ladysmith, October is proclaimed Small Business Month. It’s no secret that this proclamation is particularly meaningful to me, both as a small business owner and as a mayor who is committed to spurring and fostering economic development and tourism in our area. As a key source of innovation, job creation and economic growth, productivity and diversification, small businesses are truly the backbone of communities across this province. Ladysmith is no exception.
As such, Council – and me personally – have remained steadfast in our ongoing commitment to supporting existing businesses, attracting new business investment, and creating jobs. In addition to the Town’s various efforts, such as offering a variety of resources for new and existing businesses; and business and development incentives, including the Revitalization Tax Exemption to support the ongoing revitalization of Ladysmith’s downtown area; we continue working to ensure that high quality projects are developed that are a lasting legacy to the community.
This includes working with the Stz'uminus First Nation to develop a plan for Ladysmith’s waterfront area, in the spirit of building our relationship. Thanks to an extensive community consultation process, a number of overarching themes related to future use of the waterfront have emerged, all of which will have a direct impact on small business and economic development in Ladysmith. One theme in particular really seems to speak to the value and importance of creating and supporting small businesses in our community: Create destinations for residents and tourists to gather, eat, shop, play and linger. When I think of a revitalized waterfront with places to eat, play and stay, I also envision further motivation for visitors to explore our beautiful town and support our many local shops and restaurants.
While we remain committed to ensuring small business success, teamwork is the most effective approach. In 2017, the Town of Ladysmith contributed nearly $33,000 to the Cowichan Valley Regional District Economic Development Cowichan department. Services we receive in return include business retention and attraction initiatives, the film office and overall regional marketing and attraction activities. We support this regional approach to economic development because we believe that the CVRD is in an excellent position to market and attract investment to the Cowichan Valley as a whole.
I am particularly excited about Film Cowichan’s recent announcement regarding plans to lease the old Rona building at the Cowichan Commons in Duncan as a potential film production facility. Access to studio space on Vancouver Island is scarce, and having a facility of that nature in the Cowichan Valley could be of huge benefit to Ladysmith and future filmmakers who choose to shoot their movies in and around our picturesque community.
Also of note is something I’ve been involved with as part of a project task force to drive a new Tech Strategy for our region. The CVRD, through Economic Development Cowichan, was the first community on Vancouver Island to use its resources to leverage partnered support from Island Coastal Economic Trust to create a Cowichan Valley Regional Tech Strategy in an effort to accelerate and grow tech in our area. We know that lifestyle amenities, connectivity, access to talent and investment and academic resources are key decision points for tech entrepreneurs. The Tech Strategy will look at where we fit on the spectrum of tech activity in Canada, how we can best support our existing tech sector and what our value proposition is in attracting new tech sector development in the Cowichan Valley.
In 2017, the Town also contributed approximately $10,000 to the CVRD to support Tourism Cowichan’s regional tourism marketing initiatives, including dynamic tourism campaigns specific to Ladysmith that occur at various times of the year, particularly in the less busy, shoulder season. Tourism Cowichan already has some exciting plans in the works, such as a harvest campaign, a Christmas campaign and a spring campaign, each designed to include ideas, events, activities and media from every community in the Cowichan Valley. We look forward to working closely with Tourism Cowichan to help ensure success.
Another recent CVRD tourism initiative is aimed at boosting sports tourism in the Cowichan Valley, including Ladysmith. The 32 page Cowichan Region Sport Tourism Guide is filled with information that promotes our region as a sports destination and provides visitors with helpful tips about attractions, activities and where to eat and stay when attending local sporting events. The guide will be an especially valuable tool when sports enthusiasts flock to Ladysmith for baseball, field lacrosse, and beach volleyball events during the 2018 BC Summer Games in July.
Ladysmith’s small business owners are determined and committed and their contributions make such a profound impact on our community. Council wants to ensure that our local small businesses owners have the tools and support required to compete, succeed and grow. During Small Business Month (and every month), please make an effort to shop locally and support our small businesses. Without their talent, innovation and entrepreneurial drive, the face of our community would look and feel very differently.
Aaron Stone, Ladysmith Mayor