Many have been skeptical of continuing to spend any money on the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s economic development function, due to its troubled past.
It’s an expensive budget item, with a price tag of about $800,000 a year.
For the last several years it has been leaderless, as the CVRD board tried to decide how to clean up the mess.
Members of the commission threatened to quit en masse.
A report by a consultant hired by the CVRD was scathing in its assessment of where things stood in 2015.
Ultimately, the regional district directors decided that continuing with the function was important for the district.
It is into this atmosphere that Amy Melmock steps as the new head of the CVRD’s economic development function.
Clearly, her road ahead will not be without challenges.
Aside from the communication issues and lack of defined roles within the function identified by the CVRD’s consultant, one of the major complaints from the general public has been about measuring results.
How does one quantify how many jobs are brought to the Valley by such a function?
Since they themselves are not hiring, and many other factors come into play when a company is looking to establish a base, when can one take credit?
Things like encouraging industries and promoting the Cowichan Valley are too nebulous for a lot of folks who want to be able to point to something concrete and say: there, that’s where the $800,000 went.
Melmock will continue to face this issue throughout her tenure.
It’s encouraging that she seems to have a grasp on the need to get everyone on the same page.
It’s also encouraging that she seems to have a grasp on the most important sectors of the Cowichan Valley economy.
Because we do think that there is a place for local government to play an important role in economic development.
In fact, the tools of local government, things like zoning and permits, for example, are in large part responsible for shaping economic development in our communities.
And we want to have that control, so that the towns, villages and cities we live in continue to be the places we love, while still moving forward.
Local governments can also put policies in place that encourage desirable industries to set up within their boundaries.
All of which is to say, we need an economic development function that, well, functions.