The following update from Ron LeBlanc, Slocan Valley Economic Development Coordinator, was originally published in the Valley Voice on March 14, 2019.

Valley residents often ask me about my new role of Slocan Valley Economic Development Coordinator.  What does that mean? What is it I do, exactly? Good questions! I usually reply, “A bit of everything” with a smile.  From my perspective, everything is economic development, and economic development affects pretty much everything in valley life.

Small towns and rural areas often get hung up on how to attract big industry or tons of tourists that will create jobs and provide taxes to support local governments. It can be like trying to summon the hero to save the day or hoping the genie will appear out of the bottle. Sometimes magic happens and sometimes it also has consequences. Frankly, times have changed, and so have we. Many of us today operate in the gig economy of contract work, home-based businesses and the wearing of many hats.

We’ve learned lessons along the way. Many resource-based regions like the Slocan Valley have experienced the legacy left behind after the big company packs up and leaves. We’ve seen what too much or inappropriate tourism can do to the charm of a place.

These days, when we talk about economic development we keep in mind phrases like “appropriate development” and “community-based approach” when describing it. We first consult with a community and together explore how to encourage its most resilient, healthy and thriving self. We think in terms of people’s livelihood and quality of life, not just jobs. It’s a nudge, not a shove.

We are in a curious position here in the valley where the underground Cannabis economy has for decades directly or indirectly supported the way of life for much of the community. The industry is changing now and I know that can feel pretty uncomfortable for some of the people affected. There’s no standing still and no going back from here.  The best approach might be to see the opportunity that this budding industry represents. It’s a good time for people to stretch,  rise to the challenge that legalization represents and  find a path within it, or discover new ways to explore one’s passion and express it in work.

There are fine people out there working on ways to best support the valley during this transition. These things take time though, and we’re all just trying to figure it out as the situation evolves.

There are some pretty exciting initiatives coming down the pike in tourism, technology, agriculture, affordable housing and with businesses and the Slocan Chamber of Commerce. Mayors, councils and village staff of Slocan, Silverton and New Denver, as well as their counterparts in RDCK Area H, are all working hard on a variety of exciting projects. In fact, Economic Development is one of their shared projects, and my role as Coordinator exists because of that collaboration and cooperation, along with involvement from the Slocan Valley Economic Development Commission. Watch this space in the Valley Voice for regular updates on economic development in our valley as they continue to unfold.