COURTENAY, 13 June 2023 – New business and community advisors are working in rural and First Nations communities across the coast with $1.47 million in funding from Island Coastal Economic Trust through the Rural Advisory Program on behalf of the Province of British Columbia.

“With thankfulness for this ongoing partnership with the provincial government, our Trust is proud to be working with First Nations, local governments, and non-profits across the coast to support local businesses and communities with these investments,” says Aaron Stone, Chair, Island Coastal Economic Trust. “Lack of funding to staff these important roles is a barrier for rural and remote communities to advance sustainable development that supports local businesses and strengthens peoples’ wellbeing in small communities — it is going to be very exciting to see the results these new roles create.”

The Rural Advisory Program, which is now fully subscribed, provides important funding to enable communities and regional economic development organizations to create or expand business and community advisor positions that work with local businesses and community organizations impacted by recent changes in the forest sector.

“By funding the Trust to create a new round of advisor positions, we’re ensuring rural communities and businesses have access to the supports and help needed as they transition toward building sustainable, resilient economies,” says Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation. “We are appreciative of Island Coastal Economic Trust’s continued efforts to support inclusive economic development, diversification, and innovation led by Indigenous and rural communities across Vancouver Island and the coast.”

The Trust launched this new program in February 2023, offering two funding streams to maximize local benefits and to strategically develop a network of professionals working together with complimentary business and community development expertise:

  • Funding for Indigenous and rural communities to create a new one-year term position that provides community and/or business advisory services; and,
  • Funding for non-profit business consulting and/or financial services organizations to create a new one-year term position that provides specialized and/or sectoral business advisory services across the Trust’s service region.

Across the region, these new advisors are providing services to address the impacts of changes in forest policy and other economic effects on the forest sector across Vancouver Island and coastal B.C. This includes working directly with local businesses and community organizations to consult or advise on financial management, business strategy, grant writing, e-commerce, sales and marketing, and more.

“Our community has been greatly impacted by COVID-19, and our tourism sector in particular,” says Chief Terry Walkus, Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations. “We, as the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations, are very grateful for the opportunities presented by this funding and are certain that the creation of our Cultural Events Co-ordinator position will be our first step in our regional Indigenous tourism strategy and a critical component of our recovery. This funding will strengthen Indigenous tourism across the North Island Region, provide employment opportunities, and create new opportunities for our members moving forward. Despite the difficult times, we as a Nation will always remain hopeful that with this investment into our future we will emerge even stronger.”

“This is the first time that the Village of Sayward will have an economic development position focused on helping identify business and development needs in the Village and the portion of Strathcona Regional District (SRD) Area “A” surrounding the Village”, says Sayward Mayor Mark Baker.  “The economic development coordinator will take the lead role in working with Mayor and Council and Village staff, community groups, industry and local businesses to identify and promote business development and diversification opportunities in the Village of Sayward and in Area “A”.

A total of four regional positions have been created and 16 community-based advisors. The latter includes seven advisors working in the Regional District of Mount Waddington, four in the Strathcona Regional District, two in the Cowichan Valley Regional District, two in the Alberni-Clayoquot region, and one in the Juan de Fuca area.

“Community Futures Central Island understands how important small and medium-sized enterprises are to the island economy,” says Jolynn Green, Executive Director, Community Futures Central Island.  Our vision and mission were keenly aligned with the mandate of the Regional Business Advisory Program and we saw it as a natural fit. We want entrepreneurs to feel supported and informed by empowering them to strategically align, diversify, grow, or scale their businesses to the next level of success ultimately contributing to the economy of our island communities.”

The community-based positions will receive grants of up to $70,000 and provide community and/or business advisory services. The four regional-based positions will receive grants of up to $100,00 to provide specialized and/or sectoral business advisory services.

“We will assist Indigenous businesses to explore new and emerging opportunities for entrepreneurs within our region with the goal of reducing the weight of negative economic impacts from forestry policy changes,” says Al Little, General Manager, Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation. The regional business advisor position will assist in the exploration of alternative uses of natural resources to diversify the use of resources and reduce reliance on a single industry.”

The positions will commence over the next three months and run through August 2024.

The new Rural Advisory Program builds upon the successes and learnings from a previous funding program that was delivered by Island Coastal Economic Trust on behalf of the Province of British Columbia. The prior program, Rural Recovery Program, invested in rural economic development recovery from the pandemic. Under the prior program, 37 rural recovery advisors directly secured over $15 million of new investment into economic development and diversification priorities in rural communities across Vancouver Island and the coast.