A storm of external factors have converged to suck Pemberton’s economy down into its vortex. Business is slow in the valley and the politicians there are meeting with the chamber of commerce to try and figure out what they can do.
Village to meet with Chamber over “sharp downturn” in valley economy
By Jesse Ferreras
Community concerns about a stagnant economy have urged the Village of Pemberton into a June 7 dialogue with business leaders.
The meeting, to take the form of a Committee of the Whole, is taking place after Paul Vacirca, past president of the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to council for its April 19 meeting conveying members’ concerns about a “sharp downturn” in Pemberton’s economy.
The letter asked council to do two things: first, to provide a summary of what it has done during its tenure to “initiate and stimulate” business in Pemberton; then it asked council to tell the community what it plans to do to foster the “economic, social and environmental well-being” of the community.
The meeting is open to the public and Vacirca said the discussions would cover several fronts.
“I think it stems from membership asking what is the Village doing to promote business,” he said. “What are they doing on a fiscal policy to engage our points, that would be agriculture, tourism, light to heavy construction, whether that’s new housing starts, is it economic development around the industrial park, what are they doing with the airport.
“So it’s not only, how are we attracting new business, but how are we maintaining the ones already here and making it attractive for them to stay in business?”
Throughout Pemberton there are signs of a stagnant economy. The Terrastone building, originally envisioned as a commercial and residential development with luxury apartments, has sat abandoned and in mid-construction for over a year, the result of a lack of financing.
All over town one finds empty storefronts, such as at Portage Station, where a large commercial space has sat unoccupied since the old Movie Gallery closed there.
Other developments such as the Tiyata neighbourhood near Signal Hill Elementary School have yet to get going as the proponents figure out a way to fix an unsafe dike on the property.
As Vacirca tells it, one of the factors hurting Pemberton’s economy is that the slumping world economy is hitting the village hard.
“Sixty-four per cent of our community is a bedroom community for a workforce for Whistler,” he said. “If Whistler catches a cold, we cough, so I think that’s the start of it. You combine that with visitors (not) coming to Whistler and that tourism market slows down, then Pembertonians are going to feel that pinch.”
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said he wasn’t certain what would be discussed at the June 7 meeting, but he said it’s likely to be a “visioning discussion” for economic development in the Pemberton Valley.
“Naturally there are concerns about the economy, not just in Pemberton, but in British Columbia and the country,” he said. “Look at the business end of Whistler, the cost of fuel, what’s going to happen with rubber tire traffic this summer, our tourism industry.
“Obviously fuel costs have a big impact on a variety of things, not the least of which is agriculture. There is still a logging industry here. If economic activity doesn’t pick up globally, and in the States it doesn’t pick up, it’s going to have an impact there too.”