There were ideas aplenty for the future of the city at the recent Voices of Commerce roundtable.
Hosted by the Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Redesign Rupert and Ecotrust Canada, business people in the community all had the opportunity to give their say on how they think the city could become more prosperous and enjoyable for its residents.
Ideas were split into four categories: Innovation and Sustainability, Economic Inclusion, Arts, Culture and Recreation, and Urban Design and Infrastructure.
|Ceilidh Marlow, project manager of Redesign Rupert, runs the Urban Design and Infrastructure portion of the event. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
As has been the case for years, better access to the waterfront again was one of the biggest concerns. Revitalizing the downtown core was also at the top of the list.
Some of the ideas to accomplish this included incentives for owners to keep their buildings looking nice, as well as getting more businesses to apply for funding through the Northern Development Initiative.
Compressing the long stretching downtown into themed zones was also suggested, as was a call to introduce more seating along the sidewalks.
“How can we attract different types of entrepreneurs to fill vacant storefronts,” was the question on city councillor Blair Mirau’s mind. “And does every storefront need to be retail? Or are there other uses like a Maker’s Space, coworking spaces, or personal services. There’s so many different models that we can learn from.”
|City councillors Blair Mirau and Reid Skelton-Morven give their thoughts at the Arts, Culture and Recreation table, hosted by Lester Centre general manager Michael Gurney. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Numbers from the 2019 “Bizwalk” survey conducted by the Prince Rupert Economic Development Office and other local groups, found most business owners are pleased with the current situation in town. 89 per cent of those surveyed said their business was steady or growing, while 61 per cent were optimistic about their short term growth outlook.
One hang up though is the availability of qualified staff to work in local businesses, with 56 per cent saying it was their biggest challenge as an owner. Despite this, business licences in Prince Rupert have risen to a current total of 1,380 from the 2011 mark of 765.
Economic Inclusion was a big theme, especially how to make businesses more representative of Prince Rupert’s sizeable Indigenous population. Partnerships with Indigenous design companies were one idea to start to even out numbers, as well as updating names and signs to more accurately reflect the city’s demographics.
“I found it really interesting that people were excited about being innovative and exploring new potential in all four of these realms,” said Taylor Reidlinger of Ecotrust Canada. “I thought it was great that everybody was positively oriented about where we can go in building on the solid foundation that Prince Rupert has.”
Technology issues were tackled as well, especially those surrounding support for those wishing to expand their digital platforms. This included areas like website and app development, as well as finding the best ways to optimize web traffic and social media to gain a greater reach.
Bringing data centres to the area was also discussed, with particular attention directed towards placement on Digby Island.
|Ecotrust Canada’s Morgan Sage and Nathan Randall place ideas on the board at the Innovation and Sustainability table. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Initiatives by the port like their concrete reef project were highlighted for their environmental benefits. Back on land, participants wondered if more healthy food options could be made available, like a juice bar or fresh food store.
While the ultimate goal for the redesign is to have many of these ideas implemented by 2030, the Lester Centre’s new general manager Michael Gurney says there’s no reason some of these ideas have to wait.
“The idea of better communication between groups exercising leadership in this community. How do we connect better with each other in the interest of coalescing the already vibrant initiatives underway,” said Gurney.
To this end, a better updated and more centralized location for local events was proposed. A community board could fulfill this goal, along with an upgrade to the largely unattended Rupert Reigns website.
Recreation access was a positive note for the city, with the facilities at the Civic Centre and the town’s trails receiving particular praise.
Alex Kurial | Journalist
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