In the Elk Valley of British Columbia, we operate five steelmaking coal mines that employ approximately 4,000 people. Many of our people live and work in the valley, and we support a sustainable future for their communities.
That is why Teck has partnered with the Elk Valley communities of Elkford, Fernie and Sparwood, as well as with local First Nations, through the Elk Valley Economic Initiative (EVEI). The goal of the EVEI is to expand and diversify business opportunities in the region, with the aim of increasing the number of full-time residents in the Elk Valley.
“At Teck, we have a vested interest in ensuring the Elk Valley has a healthy and vibrant economy,” said Sharon Strom, Sustainability Coordinator, Teck, who represents industry on the EVEI and is the initiative’s current chair.
“A vibrant economy brings with it a wide variety of career opportunities that make the region an even more attractive place to live and raise a family,” said Strom. “Helping to generate employment opportunities – in and out of mining – for the spouses of mine employees assists us with our employee recruitment and retention.”
The EVEI has identified priority areas for promoting and advancing regional economic development initiatives:
- Economic investment marketing
- Addressing infrastructure gaps
- Workforce and training
- Business development and diversification
The reason for the approach – working together as a region to tackle economic diversification and business development – lies in the old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By thinking and acting as a region, opportunities will be generated that benefit each individual community.
The EVEI launched in 2014 with a strategic planning session. One of the first initiatives proposed is the Mobile Business Licence (MBL), which would allow businesses to provide their services in all participating municipalities by purchasing one licence for the entire region, as opposed to municipality by municipality.
The MBL is intended to support growth and efficiency in the local economy by reducing the regulatory and economic barriers that business owners encounter, thereby increasing choices and services to clients. Cutting down on red tape will help these businesses thrive and create additional opportunities in the region.
Another example of the work underway was to help ensure the availability of reliable broadband Internet service across the region. A November 2014 forum hosted by the EVEI featured guest speakers presenting on regional and local broadband initiatives designed to ensure consistent and competitive service to meet the existing and future needs of business.
Funding for the EVEI is provided by a number of sources, including the Columbia Basin Trust’s Community Directed Funds and Community Futures East Kootenay. Teck and the B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training have provided in-kind support.
The EVEI is working to benefit the region’s more than 10,000 residents by taking steps towards a stronger, more diverse economy.
From Teck’s perspective, we will benefit from a more diverse regional economy that makes the already excellent communities near our steelmaking coal operations even more desirable for individuals and families to live and work in. We are proud to be a member of the EVEI and look forward to continuing our participation throughout 2015.