Here is a great new thing for our community! It’s about our youth, our future and promoting Campbell River as a place that is not only a great place to live, but is full of amazing talent!
Everyone uses the term. From former Presidents at the Democratic National Convention, to property developers ranting at City Council about the Mayors activities, “Trickle Down” seems to be the catch phrase of the day.
The question is, are we prepared for the trickle down that is coming, because that trickle will soon become a torrent.
Consider this; Seymour Pacific, Berwick Retirement Community, Zeller’s to Target renovation and now the Super Valu to Winners renovation, all happening downtown over the next 18 to 24 months. None of these are small projects and they are happening in high traffic areas. They will add a hundred or more bodies (and almost as many vehicles) into an already fairly congested area, but that’s a good thing, as those same workers will use local eateries and coffee shops on a daily basis, not mention a wide variety of other downtown stores, due to their location. Are the restaurants and coffee shops ready for business to double, perhaps even triple, during their busiest times? Are local businesses preparing to attract all those people coming to work here on these projects? More importantly, who is leading this effort to prepare our community of the coming boom times?
OK. So those are four projects, just in the downtown. Now, let’s add the hospital, John Hart Dam, Merecorft / Dogwood apartments, the Mariners Square oil change building, the new Women’s shelter, a potential new homeless shelter, regular new housing development and renovation projects, the potential of new development at the former Catalyst site and, if my sources are correct, even more plans for the downtown in both renovations and new development. All local businesses will benefit from everything oriented around this building boom, from construction suppliers to hospitality providers. The “trickle down” will be significant. Some businesses will have to hire more people. Some will have to expand services. Some will have to order more product to meet demands, while others will have to increase production to meet those orders. Who is leading the charge to make sure that Campbell River is prepared for the coming supply and demand onslaught?
Truth is, unless I have been in a coma and missed it, the only word I have heard from anyone about “being prepared” was from the Mayor, when he suggested that staff look into the possibility of changing some of the restrictions around rental suites, in order for citizens to open their doors to the flood of construction workers that are to come.
Nothing from Rivercorp, cataloging and connectinig the services and needs of those businesses that are bringing ECONOMIC prosperity to our community. Nothing from the Chamber of Commerce trumpeting their membership and creating networking sessions with suppliers and service providers (unless you include their pay-per-use business portal). Nothing from City communications promoting what the community has to offer, other than the same stagnant navigation nightmare of a Website and a slightly more active Facebook page.
To be honest, I have no idea who is supposed to play Head Coach and get the team ready for this Big Game, but I would hope that the coaches we do have would step up and make sure that the team is at least THINKING about the game ahead. That helps make a winning team.
Welcome to the 21st Century. We do things differently here.
In my previous rant, I went off on why Rivercorp is dead, or at least should be. Half a Million dollars this year has accomplished little or nothing of substance. If the axe isn’t already gaining momentum, it is certainly being sharpened. So the question is, what to do why Rivercorp is gone?
As you can imagine, I have already thought, at length, about this one. Do we scale it down to an EDO, located in the City Hall, scrambling around doing what ever it is that EDO’s supposedly do? Do we outsource it? Do we scrap it all together and simply let things happen the way that they are going to happen, with the business community do the promotion?
Or do we think WAY outside the proverbial box, and try something radically different. Here is my thought;
A budget one fifth of what is being spent now. One office, instead of many. One, maybe two, instead of 6 or more, and ONE, simple, mandate; get people talking about Campbell River.
It is fairly obvious that the “economic development” in this town has been slow to come and the development that has come has had pretty much nothing to do with an EDO office, so why bother. Why not have an office that has the purpose of promoting Campbell River, rather than attempting to sell it. Why not have a person who is connected to the community, but is also well-connected outside of the community? Why not have a person that is good at promoting, comfortable with talking to everyone and anyone, understands how media and Social Media works and is able to leverage both? Put that person in one office of Rivercorp’s current location and then rent/lease out the rest to start-up businesses in Campbell River, thereby helping to generate a little revenue. Then, use that revenue to help cost recover for the person you hired to promote the community.
Have this person connect with the people in the community and keep them in the loop as to what is happening and where the community is going. When something is happening in Campbell River, this person is talking about it, sharing it, engaging it and encourage others who live here to do the same. While all this is happening, this person is listening, with an ear to the world outside, listening for an opportunity to engage with a person or business that is looking for a change of scenery or a place to expand into. They are not making the deals though. No they are doing the one thing that hasn’t been happening here. They would be connecting prospects to the people in the community that CAN make things happen. No memberships. No fees. No clique preference that has opportunities landing on the doorstep of a select few. Everyone has the chance to shine and help the community grow. This person would be a connector, a collaborator and a communicator. Most of all, this person would be SEEN by the community doing what he/she is paid to do.
No, before my detractors start running off at the yap, with such nonsense as “he’s just trying to convince people to give him the job”, I have two words for you; Dave Reynolds.
Now, talk amongst yourselves.
If you had an employee, in your business, that consistently failed to deliver results or perform to expectations, chances are you would show them the door.
If you were the shareholder of a company that you believed in, but the executive team was not meeting targets and not achieving success towards growth, chances are you would seek to have them replaced.
If you had a child that, when asked, tells you that they did all their homework and chores, but you could find no proof of either, would you still give them their allowance?
In this case, our employee / Executive / child comes in the form of Rivercorp, the half-million dollar hole where plenty goes in, but little (or nothing that we are allowed to see), comes out.
Honestly, I know more about what is happening at the Canadian spy agency, than I do about what is happening at Rivercorp. I know about all the great things that are starting to happen in this community, because I attend council meetings and read the news, not because I heard it from our Economic Development office. In fact, I have had more contact and learned more about what is happening in the Nanaimo area, via their new Economic Development CEO in the past month, than I have heard from our CEO in the past YEAR!
Since the news broke about the sale of the Catalyst mill site, back in the middle of August, I have spoken, tweeted, posted, mentioned and shared info about the sale 163 times (yes, I keep count). You will find posts about it on my blog, Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media accounts. Google “campbell river catalyst sean smith” and you will see what I mean. Thing is, however, it is not my job to share all that is happening in Campbell River, especially things like the mill site and its future. No, that is supposed to be the job of the 6-figure a year EcDev CEO. So why, I ask, is it not happening.
Since almost the day he started here, Vic Goodman has hidden behind the comment “there is a lot going on, but, due to confidentiality, we cannot talk about it right now”. OK. Fine. I get that. so what, if anything, can he talk about? How about the future development and launch dates of the new Target store? There are a lot of economic benefits that are coming to the community out of that. How about a profile of Seymour Pacific, as proof that not only can a head office survive here in CR, but it can grow and build a new multi-million dollar building in our downtown. Perhaps he can talk about service industry opportunities in Campbell River, focused on the ever-growing seniors demographic, unless they had nothing to do with Berwick’s new retirement community deciding on Campbell River as their newest location. Surely they can talk about the economic development strategy they are building in conjunction with the new airport authority, to attract business to all the amazing opportunities that location offers.
Oh, who am I kidding. When the head of your organization says that he “cannot see the value of things like Twitter” and “this town spends too much time focusing on Tourism”, you get the impression that he is not very forward thinking. When you see a website that hasn’t been updated in months and has nothing about the future construction boom happening in the community, you would likely surmise that the organization has nothing to share.
Even after a rather shocking budget increase request that was seriously lacking in information, the new Mayor made it clear that the future of Rivercorp is going to be “ tied to their performance over the next 12 months”. With barely 4 months left, the clock is ticking and the delivery has yet to be made. The question we should start asking now is; what do we do once Rivercorp is done?…..but that’s a post for another day.
If you are coming to Campbell River City Council, as a supporter of the Mayor, and take the City Council and Staff to task, be prepared to incur the wrath of a the councillors (see Mike Gage speaking to council on August 14th). However, if you come to council to bash the Mayor, no worries. Knock yourself out. Have fun. They won’t stop you. In fact, the silence from the council will be deafening.
In the August 14th meeting, Mr.Gage, who is known to not mince words, stated how he felt about the councils previous decisions and what he thought of City staff. Councilor Moglove, rebutted the statements (1.14.00 into the council meeting), stating that she took a great exception to a member of the public coming into OUR council meeting and denigrating staff…”. The kicker was when she said that delegates should show “respect” to the council and staff when in chambers. Well, somewhere over the past 2 weeks, she has had a change of heart. In fact, she allowed the owner of Ironwood Mall, Allan Edie, to bash away at the Mayor without once suggesting that he show some “respect” to the head of the Council.
I wasn’t at all impressed with what Edie was doing, either. To talk the City Council about being respectful of those who are investing in the community, while make personal attacks at the Mayor of the very city you claim to be investing in? The hypocrisy was not missed. He also dragged out the money he is investing in the community and the good he has done, which is appreciated, but he is not alone in it any more. 4 or 5 years ago, maybe, but now there are nearly a dozen new developments on the books, with multi-millions being spent in the community. The self-interest was also not missed, in a bit of a tirade of finger-pointing.
The Council needs to get past this. With all the future development and positive buzz that is happening Campbell River, the last thing we need to face is the continuing ego and posturing that has been going on. The Council needs to get a grip on the staff (the CAO is a good place to start, especially after the way he spoke to one of the delegates tonight) and they need to have an understanding; behind closed doors you can hate each other all they want. In chambers the need to be working on the same page. The occasional battle is fine, but the key word is occasional. Find the common ground and DON’T screw up the direction this community is starting to move in.
There is a basic fact here that the government, City Hall management or Rivercorp (or many of the City Councilors, I expect) probably do not understand. Believe it or not, the future owners of the Catalyst property probably don’t need your help.
The media seeks comments from people at City Hall, about the sale. Comments have come from the BC Government, about the surprise of the sale and how they are looking forward to assisting the future development. The Rivercorp CEO is desperately trying to tie himself to this sale in his bid to create some sort of value for his failing organization. One only needs to see the past success of Mr.Jahn’s ventures to see that he probably does not need any help from the various levels of government, to make this endeavor a success.
There will certainly be some things that the City and the Province will be involved in, generally around permits and approvals that bog down any large scale effort in this province / community. Even Rivercorp has something to offer, with access to the volumes of data that they have created over the past decade (which, you can be sure, they will stupidly attempt to charge for access to), but beyond that, I would hope that these agencies would step out of the way and make themselves available when needed, rather than being a cumbersome nuisance to the process.
What these organizations can do is rally the community. Help the community by keeping them informed about what they do know about what is going on and helping the community prepare for everything from the influx of construction workers to transporting employees to the businesses in the park. An example of this is the Mayor’s suggestion on temporarily modifying the rules around rental suites, opening the doors to home owners to help themselves (and community) by renting space to transient workers. Now, before you go off about this taking away from hotel/motel/B&B, keep in mind the scale of what is happening in this town. In less than 2 years we will see so much construction happening in Campbell River that builders will be screaming for workers from around the province and we haven’t nearly enough space to meet that demand AND the demands of the tourism industry.
But, back to the original point. Government, and the likes of Rivercorp, need to give this new industrial park development some space, to consider how, and what, they are going to do. Sticking their noses into it now (see City CAO Andy Laidlaw’s taxation comments from last week), is going to muddy the waters of something that has some very positive vibes for out City.
As excitement grows with the possible purchase and development of the old Catalyst site (I say potential, as the deal is not final until Sept. 5th), I thought I would put this out there, because I know that the City, Rivercorp, Chamber and every other business / economic promotion outfit in this town will not be talking about it. Small business finding a home in the new Industrial Park.
Everyone is so focused on what kind of employment new industry can bring to the community, but it dawned on me that there are many other opportunities in the offing, for the entrepreneurs in Campbell River. The new owner has talked of having up to 50 businesses on the property, rather than just the one we have seen in the past. Each business has its own needs and the industrious entrepreneur should be able to see the opportunity.
Imagine a decent coffee shop or diner on the property. Perhaps a convenience store or gas station. 50 companies will undoubtably have technology support needs, so a computer repair / service shop isn’t far from the mark. Why should any of these businesses have to drive or call into town to access the things they need, if there is a business right in the industrial site offering.
Now, before people start going off the deep end saying that what I am recommending is taking away the revenue opportunities of established businesses in town, consider this; this site has everything a new business is looking for, including some built-in retail / convenience services and they move here, they are going to hire people. Those people will live in town and they will spend their money both on site AND in town. Those entrepreneurial small business owners, that find their place on the industrial site, will also live and spend IN the community. It is not taking away from anyone. It is adding to what this community has to offer in attracting new business.
I, like everyone else in Campbell River, is buoyed by the potential of this potential sale and development. I am just hoping that we look at it as something entirely different from what we have been used to for the past 50 years from that site.
The calls started coming in on Friday morning. What do you know about the sale of the Catalyst mill site? I, like most people in Campbell River, knew nothing more than what was in the press release that went out late Thursday afternoon. My first thought was ”maybe this is where Rivercop finally earns its keep”, so I went to the Rivercorp office and asked for Vic Goodman.
” Media has been calling me all morning. Where do I send them?” It took only a couple of seconds, but it was pretty obvious that our CEO of Economic Development had no idea who was behind the sale and how much it was for. In fact, he actually said to me “have them call me on Monday”. Seriously? A news cycle is going to wait an entire weekend for comments from the people they know nothing about? I shouldn’t have been too surprised, I suppose, but it still seems kind of odd that he would even think this way. Didn’t he realize that big news like this doesn’t wait a weekend for answer?
As luck would have it, the new owner of the Catalyst property arrived for a bit of a briefing. Media had a chance to interview him and news went out full at 5:30 that evening. But here’s the kicker, there was still nothing from Rivercorp on their website or social media accounts.
Fast forward to Monday morning. Sitting in my easy chair watching TV on my day off, I get a phone call. It’s Vic Goodman. Wow. He never calls me. Turns out he’s returning my call from Friday. Really? I left a message for him to call me in case I didn’t get to see him. But I did get to see him. Seems that his assistant passed on the number but not the reason for my being there, and he didn’t put it together, either. So I get a phone call saying “returning your phone call”. Wow. Good communications.
After re-explaining why I had left a message, he starts to get into it with me about why would the media be calling me. “Because I’m the social media guy”, I said. People call me because I’m connected to the community, and generally know what’s going on in this community. “They have our number. It’s on the website and on our social media. They could’ve called the visitor center too.” OMG. I damn near dropped the phone. He’s talking to ME about their social media? He can’t be serious.
Let’s take a look at their social media. Their Twitter account has just over 400 people following, and it hasn’t been updated since 26 July. Their Facebook account, with all of the 132 people liking it, hadn’t been updated since 20 July, save for a posting of the CTV news piece on the sale, posted on Saturday. And what about their website? Well a quick look at their website shows that they haven’t updated that front page since the middle of May. Their latest “news” hasn’t been updated since the beginning of May. I won’t even get into the fact that their Facebook link on the webpage doesn’t even go anywhere. Of course, this is all a moot point. Most people in this town don’t even know the Rivercorp exists. Why would a media outlet from outside of BC or even the lower mainland know about them?
Over the next two or three years Campbell River is going to start booming. Seymour Pacific new head office. John Hart dam project. New hospital. Target store renovation. Berwick Retirement Community. New Apartment development on Dogwood. Redevelopment of the old coastline Mazda property and now the industrial park on the old Catalyst site, with an estimated 400 jobs on the horizon. There is development all over this community, and our economic development office talking about NONE of it in ANY of their online or public print media. Apparently mass construction has nothing to do with Economic Development.
The taxpayers of this community pay over half a million annually to this organization. The CEO Rivercorp makes more than $100,000 a year. After reading this, tell me whether or not you think we’re getting our moneys worth.
There is an odd silence in the community, right now.
Since I first moved here, I cannot recall a major development going in that didn’t have at least one person standing on their soap box, belting out rants about how the development was going to block a view or destroy a “jewel of our community”. You could almost count on it. Yet, we have 2 major developments happening in our downtown area, significant in both scale and height, and there has not been a peep from the usual suspects.
Not that this is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. I am thrilled that we have these significant additions happening and I am excited by the prospect of how much they will change the look of our downtown core. More than that, I am excited by what they potentially mean for the future of our City.
Seymour Pacific / Broadstreet Properties
The new headquarters for one of Western Canada’s largest construction and property rental companies, will be the most significant change to downtown Campbell River in decades. A modern glass and steel structure, placed amongst building that, in some cases, date back to the mid-1940′s. It will be unlike anything that is in the community and will draw the attention of everyone who sees it. A 5-story beacon of things to come, proof that a headquarters for a major company can exist in a relatively small City on Vancouver Island.
Berwick Retirement Community
A company that has not only recognized that Campbell River is place that many are looking at for their retirement years, but is also willing to invest in the community to capitalize on that interest? Well, it’s about time.
For years I have looked at that property between Banners and McDonald’s and wondered if anyone would every develop its value potential. The announcement of a 6-story development with over 120 units tells me that companies from outside the community are finding the climate is right for building in Campbell River. Property value is right, the views are awesome and, apparently, the hurdles to development that plagued the past are slowly starting to disappear. Having talked to a few developers, both from within and without the community, the processes are still far from perfect, but they are considerably better than what they were.
Both Berwick and Seymour Pacific’s development bear none of the markings of major developments in the past. No drawn out council meetings filled with angry renters and property owners whose “views” may be slightly obscured. No “instant experts” on land and environment, waving banners of “Save our Community from Evil Development”. Nothing. It’s not to say that some may show up when the shovels arrive, with shocked looks on their faces and anger in their eyes yelling “nobody told us”, but, for now, there is a blissful peace and excitement for the changes to come.
But wait! There is more! On top of things like Seymour Pacific, Berwick and the Old Zellers/Future Target renovations, I am told that there are several other development coming in the downtown and in Willow Point, that will continue to change the face of this town. While some will look at it as the dawn of disaster (yes, NIMBY’s and CAVE types, I am talking about you), I look at it as saying the one thing we have failed to say in a very long time; Yes. We are open for business.
Once again the BC Bike Race rolled into town and the community filled with many that have never experienced this area before. Yes, it was very wet, but, to a mountain biker, that is part of the thrill and challenge of riding in a rain forest. I was out doing my volunteer thing with Citizens On Patrol, helping manage traffic, and it was great to see all these mud covered riders come in, smiling from ear to ear.
As I did the previous year, I took some time to chat with some of the riders. One rider, from South Africa, I even took off to a local sporting good store to pick up some warmer wet weather gear. Pretty well every one I talked to said the same thing; they loved the trails, the scenery and the hospitality of the community. In fact, the support they got from the people who live here was incredible. From the volunteers supporting the race day needs, to the businesses who stayed open longer hours to make sure that the riders and crews had everything they needed, our citizens stepped up in a big way.
The same could not be said for Rivercorp.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear that over 1000 people are about to descend on my community, all at once, the first thing that goes through my head is “what can we do for them, to make their visit memorable”. After doing a little investigating, I found that the organization we pay better than half a million a year to promote our community, did virtually nothing in the field of local promotion. I found out that a call for info was made to the City Hall by the race organizers, a day or so before they arrived, for local info packages and that need was met by our awesome team at the Visitor Centre to support it. The thing is, that call should not have needed to be made. If the Tourism arm of Rivercorp was on the ball, those packages would have been in the hands of the riders well before they even made their way to the start line on Day 1. The City did its part, with the Community Centre and making sure that the park was ready, but where was Tourism Campbell River and Region? They seemed so far out of the loop that they never even noticed that the link on the BC Bike Race site went to “that other” local tourism promotion group. (click here)
Granted, there is a section on the Tourism Campbell River and Region website, dedicated to the BC Bike Race, but it is, to say the least, limited. Couple of videos, a small write-up and, if you have the time to drill down through a half-dozen links to existing data on the site, there is info on things to do and places to stay in Campbell River. I couldn’t even call it a half-assed attempt, for fear of offending people who do things half-assed. There is a fanastic map of the Snowdon Demonstration Forest trail network. Not linked (made even more ridiculous considering that Rivercorp and TCRR are sponsors of the map). Info and resources geared SPECIFICALLY to the mountain biking community. Not available. In fact, the BC Bike Race image and link were the ones placed there last year, showing that there was little done to update and prepare for this year. (click here to read all about that great day in CR, on the BCBR website)
The reason that BC Bike Race returns to Campbell River is because of the great riding trails and the support they get from the mountain biking community here in this City. If riders return, after the race, however, you can be sure that it had absolutely nothing to do with an effort by Rivercorp to make it happen. Fact is, opportunity rode up, banged a muddy fist on the door, but no one was there to answer.