For Amy Melmock, an integral part of planning and promoting economic development in the Cowichan Valley is forming partnerships with individuals and organizations.
Melmock is the new manager of the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s long-troubled Economic Development Function, and she already has plans to bring her expertise in that area to the Valley.
She said her first priority is to meet each of the district’s directors and gain an understanding of the economic issues in each of their electoral areas.
“I will work to assess each of the issues, and relate them to the region as a whole,” Melmock said.
“I consider getting to know people in the regional district and forming constructive interpersonal relations with them as very important, and almost everything else can be built on that. We need to have a shared vision of how we want economic development to progress, and we all need to be on the same team,” she said.
Melmock, who was chosen from more than 50 applicants for the job, studied economic development at Waterloo University and St. Mary’s University and has held positions in the field across Canada.
Her vast experience will be required to rejuvenate the leaderless EDF after its previous manager, Geoff Millar, retired in 2014.
After Millar’s retirement, Jerry Berry, of Jerry Berry Consultants Inc., tabled a report on the governance of the EDF last year in which he stated that there has been a “fundamental failure to follow board strategic direction” in the organization.
Berry said in his report that there have been failures to clarify roles and responsibilities in the organization, communicate effectively and pursue previously recommended corrective action.
The EDF has a budget of more than $800,000 a year, most of which comes from property taxes.
Melmock said the traditional focus for economic development in the Valley for the past five to eight years has been on the agriculture and tourism industries, as well as film, and she intends to continue to look for new opportunities there.
She said Tourism Cowichan is developing a comprehensive strategy for destination marketing of the Valley and one of her roles in that process is to ensure that all regions are represented in that initiative.
“We also need to make sure that we are aligned with Tourism Cowichan’s strategy and are not duplicating services,” Melmock said.
“If one of Tourism Cowichan’s main focuses is on leveraging resources for marketing, the EDF could take another role, like highlighting the Valley’s extensive trail systems so people will know what’s here.”
Melmock said she has earmarked a considerable amount of time to study the many challenges facing the Valley’s dynamic agriculture industry, and will be consulting with partners on what the priorities are and how to act on them.
“As for film, I believe there is a great potential for growth of the industry in the Valley when it comes to new areas of the sector, like digital, and we can build a strong film community here,” she said.
Melmock said the Valley provides numerous other economic opportunities just waiting to be explored, including investment opportunities related to its industrial land base.
“We need to explore how the local municipalities and the CVRD are identifying those opportunities and bringing them to the forefront,” she said.
“There’s no doubt those opportunities are there, but the right people need to be put together to take advantage of them. We know the eyes are on the EDF, and I’ll work hard to do the best job we can.”