Economic development officer provides update to city council

The Prince Rupert Economic Development Corporation gave a presentation to city council to review what the non-profit organization has done.

  • Feb. 2, 2012 6:00 a.m.

The Prince Rupert Economic Development Corporation gave a presentation to city council to review what the non-profit organization has done in the past year to promote Prince Rupert as a place to do business and what it’s planning for 2012.

Derek Baker is the economic development officer with the development corporation. He gave the presentation to council as part of their application for $90,000 in funding from the city, which combined with $10,000 from the District of Port Edward, makes up their whole budget for 2012.

“We rely on contributions from the communities to fund the operations and activities of the corporation. We also look for other grants on a project-by-project basis when they become available as well,” said Baker.

In 2011 the development corporation was very involved in the Cruise Task Force which tried to retain and even grow the cruise industry in Prince Rupert. The task force implemented 24 ideas to make the on-shore experience for passengers better, including buskers, an adventure guide and street theatre.

“When this all came together, we found that passengers who went on excursions had a very positive view of Prince Rupert. But where we lagged was with visitors not taking part in those excursions. They were sometimes having unsatisfactory views of Prince Rupert, so we really embraced providing activities and content for those visitors,” said Baker.

Ultimately, the task force’s efforts were not enough to bring the Norwegian Star back to  the city for 2013, but according to Baker their data shows that they did manage to keep more visitors on shore for two or three hours longer. Before, most passengers returned to their ship after an hour.

“We see that as validation and a success for the cruise ship task force,” said Baker.

In the past year the development corporation helped write $450,000 worth of grant applications for projects in the community. Last June, the development corporation also put together a trader delegation of businesspeople and city councillors to China, where they visited the cities of Beijing, Shainghai and Rupert’s sister city, Cangzhou. They also worked together with NWCC and Community Futures to make a business retention and expansion survey.

“The results we receive will serve as an early warning system to help identify companies that might be leaving, identify any challenges businesses are facing…It puts us in a position to be proactive instead of reactive to the concerns of businesses,” said Baker.

The development corporation also worked with other communities to open a investment website  for northern BC: The site has got 27,000 views since in launched in October and has attracted attention from all over the world.

Going into 2012, the development corporation wants  to keep improving the website, including getting more First Nations involvement.

“It’s our vision to include First Nations throughout the northwest, to profile their development opportunities and provide their contact information to foreign investors that might be looking to engage them,” said Baker.

The corporation will be completing the business survey described above this year and the findings will be presented to council.

Also this year, the development corporation wants to look at expanding marina capacity and have already engage a engineering firm to look into the possibility of a marina in the Cow Bay area as well as looking for grant funding for the project.

While the weekly cruise ship may be gone, there are four cruise ships coming to Prince Rupert this summer and the development corp. wants to keep the cruise task force going this year. Prince Rupert is expecting a trade delegation from its sister city, Cangzhou, but there’s no word yet on when that might be. They also want to grow the logistics industry in town to take advantage for the growing port activity.

“Partnering with the port authority, we are looking to grow logistics activities such as distribution, warehousing, and storage among other things.”