Merritt City Council had its first draft review of the staff’s new Economic Development Strategy, a document that will guide the City’s economic recovery and revitalization efforts until 2031.
At the May 31 Committee of the Whole meeting, Economic Recovery Advisor Stephanie Moore presented the newly drafted document to city council and staff, which identifies five key priorities, as well as several strategies to achieve each priority taken on by multiple organizations.
“We want our city centre to be the economic heart of our community,” said Moore in her report to Council and staff.
“Economic development is not just a City function. We do have a few actions that are led by other organizations and agencies in the community.”
The actions and strategies suggested by the plan range from promoting tourism and business retention in the community, to establishing a “Business Improvement Area,” which Moore says could allow for a more unified business community. Included in the strategy document is an implementation plan, which offers possible dates for implementation of suggested improvements.
“One of the themes that came up in our community engagement was communication, and both from the City out to the community, but also between everyone. That includes business to business, and organizations to the City.”
The key priorities laid out in the plan are as follows, but are subject to change before the final presentation of the plan to council at the June 28 regular meeting:
1. Promote a Vibrant City Centre
2. Economic Diversification and Growth
3. Business Attraction and Retention
4. Increase Housing Supply in City Centre and Urban Villages
5. Commercialization of the Merritt Airport Area
These priorities are currently set to be achieved over the next 10 year period, and will see Merritt gain valuable infrastructure and social benefits, from a revitalized downtown core with pedestrian only streets and public washrooms, as well as possible commercial traffic and development at Merritt’s uncontrolled Saunders Field airport.
Preparations for the creation of this new unified guiding document began in late June of 2021, when funding from the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior (ETSIBC) enabled the City to hire Moore as their advisor. Her work began immediately with reviewing the City’s current documents, followed by months of community engagement with local residents, businesses, and other stakeholders. This work began during a stressful time for Merrittonians.
“We’ve had lots of challenges between fires, flooding, and COVID. It’s been challenging, but not impossible. Our community engagement began on September 18.”
Hampered by COVID-19 restrictions and evacuation alerts and orders, the City adapted their information gathering methods, opting to gather input from residents and local stakeholders through both online surveys and in-person events. Moore says input was positive and constructive, and helped staff to narrow down the vision set out for the City in the new strategy.
“We are trying to grow the economy here, we need to ensure there are high-paying jobs for our residents, but we can’t forget the businesses that have been here and made Merritt what it is. We want to know how we can support the businesses that are here right now and doing the work.”
City of Merritt residents now have the chance to give feedback on the document in a new survey open until June 13, and Moore encourages residents and businesses to give their input. The survey and document can both be found at www.merritt.ca/economic-recovery/.