Boosting island business
many ideal business ideas.” Kaile mentioned examples like cooking courses and canoe making. “Things like these are very much in vogue at the moment. And our unique aspect –we’re surrounded by water – makes marine tourism a natural fit. This gives us a natural area that we are poised to develop.” Kaile believes that there can be a huge spin-off for service providers and said that recreational pursuits like hiking, kayaking and mountain biking could be expanded “with minimum trouble and expense.”
Kaile also drew attention to special events as a way to entice visitors to come to Bowen. “The Steamship Days were remarkable, especially since this was the first time the event was put on,” he said, adding that he believes that Bowen Island needs to be able to accommodate larger groups. “We need zoning changes for development in this sector. We also need a facility to accommodate larger groups of about 100 people - that would be a huge benefit.”
Next up was Jacqueline Massey, EDAC’s vice-chair, who presented ideas revolving around health and wellness. “We have a number of businesses already established in that field and want to encourage more businesses in order to promote Bowen as a place of refuge and healing,” Massey said. “We have examples of addiction recovery, the healing arts and meditation retreats like Rivendell and Xenia. We could envision specialty clinics that focus on naturopathic remedies and education.” Massey explained that it is not unusual for islands to attract those activities, as is evident from Hollyhock (on Saltspring Island) and The Haven (on Gabriola Island). “These initiatives come from the private sector but, in some instances, they require zoning changes as well as affordable housing options for employees,” Massey said. “We would also like to look at the potential for a community health care centre.”
Massey also mentioned expansion in the areas of education and research. “The areas we could promote are marine and other scientific research, technology studies and university satellite campuses,” she said. Other fields that would be good fits for Bowen are green initiatives and green technology, including carbon offsets and alternative energy. “Perhaps Bowen Island could become a model in those fields as well as a destination to learn about them,” Massey said. “We already have a Sustainability Tour that has been very successful. We have a community garden, local food production, beekeeping, solar energy and hydroponic systems.”
The next speaker and EDAC member, Murray Atherton, explored the subject of artisanal and cottage industries. “Right now, we have a few exporters on the island,” he said, mentioning Cocoa West Chocolatier and the Bowen Island Coffee Roasting Company. “We have to give those businesses the means to expand. We need live-work zoning to encourage growth in that area,” Atherton said, suggesting to create a “function junction” to accommodate the need for light industrial and related zoning and allow for workshop and warehouse spaces.
Atherton believes that real estate development should target specific niche needs that includes a diversity of housing such as seniors’ housing and multi-family housing. “Affordable housing is such a catch phrase,” he said. “But we need accommodation for engineers, surveyors, trades people, all those who are looking to live and work on the island. We also need to give them a place where they can store their material so we don’t have to wait three weeks to get it shipped to Bowen.”
Ganong said that in addition to the sectors that have been identified as having a strong potential for growth, the committee has outlined roles for council to actively promote them. “The first is infrastructure,” Ganong said, explaining that council could provide the infrastructure or encourage developers to put it in place. The tools that are available to council are policy, zoning and bylaws. Ganong said that the committee respects council’s fiscal situation and is aiming to make recommendations that don’t require lots of dollars.
Mayor Jack Adelaar said that he believes that the municipality has to play a role in the economical development. He welcomed the committee’s recommendations and added that many of the issues have already been brought to council’s attention and are connected. Councillor Wolfgang Duntz said he was impressed by the breadth of EDAC’s presentation. “I’ve had a few occasions to listen to great committees. We use all that wonderful language about diversity and sustainability, then we go home and nothing is done,” he said. “It remains to be seen if it’s going to be different this time.” Duntz suggested that valuable recommendations need to be followed up with something definite and he asked the committee to come up with specific, prescriptive suggestions. He also asked for EDAC to “devote some time on education why the economy matters.”
EDAC committee members Lonnie Hindle and Rondy Dike also spoke about the necessity to take action to encourage businesses. And councillor Alison Morse said, “I think we should add the ‘function junction’ to list of things to create, I hear a lot of support for that. I would also like to add advocating for better broadband and cell phone coverage on Bowen Island.” She also suggested establishing a priority rating by which zoning applications can be processed to ensure that issues like affordable housing will move forward.