By ROY WOOD
The search continues for the magic bullet that will transform Oliver from a quiet, pleasant rural community into someplace more vibrant, with a bustling downtown and a thriving tourism industry.
The latest attempt is something called Grow Oliver, a project funded by the provincial Rural Dividend Fund. Its “Draft Economic Development Strategy” was presented in very broad strokes to a council committee Monday afternoon.
John Ingram and Jordan Konyk of EcoPlan Consulting urged council members to read the more-than-100-page document and offer feedback. Then in a few weeks the consultants will come back with a final version of the strategy.
The laudable objectives, which sound reminiscent of renewal projects of the past, include:
- Create an attractive and vibrant downtown;
- Support and grow local businesses;
- Attract investment and jobs;
- Create local benefits and regional tourism;
- Encourage affordable housing and commercial spaces;
- Foster a robust and resilient local economy;
- Promote innovation and a green local economy; and
- Strengthen relationships with regional partners.
The draft strategy is broad in sweep and scope, and includes short, medium and long-term objectives, from establishing local committees and regional relationships, integrating town assets and broadening the stakeholder base to include pretty much everyone in Oliver.
The so-called “Quick Start” phase covers the first 12 months and includes:
- Creating a Grow Oliver Committee. Council seemed to agree this would be some expanded version of the current Downtown Action Plan Committee;
- Designating a Grow Oliver Coordinator, someone who would “move the strategy forward” and be its champion, likely part-time at first;
- Develop a relationship with the Osoyoos Indian Band; and
- Create an Oliver Tourism Brochure.
The “Foundation” phase covers 12-24 months:
- Downtown Oliver development feasibility study;
- A beautification and “Wayfinding” project;
- Festival of the Grape Centre feasibility study; and
- A “Partner in Parks” program, including how to take advantage of the South Okanagan National Park Reserve.
Actions over the longer term, two years and beyond, include:
- A buy-local campaign;
- New childcare opportunities;
- Development of the airport;
- Better transit mobility;
- Shoulder season tourism events; and
- Encouraging cycle tourism.
Council considered a motion to have staff look at the feasibility of creating a Grow Oliver coordinator, but decided to wait at least until the final strategy is presented and accepted.